Laleh Seddigh, the Makings of a Pioneer
Dr. Laleh Seddigh, a Ph.D. in industrial production, is an Executive Vice President with one of Iran’s largest vehicle parts manufacturers. She is also an accomplished equestrian and is well known for her charitable works with a number of charities dedicated to a number of social welfare causes. But what is of greater interest to us is that Laleh is one of Iran’s most accomplished race and rally drivers, better than many of the men, beating many of them to win the national saloon car racing title in 2005, as well as nearly 50 other wins and trophies.
Laleh’s start in motorsports commenced in a way that was far off from the beaten path, namely by receiving a religious Fatwa (edict) from a prominent Ayatollah stating that there were no religious limitations for women to partake in motorsports. Using this Fatwa, Laleh broke through the proverbial glass ceiling that had prevented women from participating in motorsports in Iran, and thanks to her efforts, it is now quite common for women to compete in nearly all motorsports activities in Iran.
Incidentally, it was thanks to the efforts of the Laleh Seddigh and the Iran’s Women’s Motorsports Commission, as well as the President of the Iranian Motorcycle and Automobile Federation (MAFIRI) that since July 2016 Iranian women have had the right to compete in motocross events, for the first time in history.
In an interview on the sidelines of the “Tina Brown’s Women in The World (WITW) Conference,” held in India in 2015, Laleh Seddigh commented on the limitations that she has hd to face and why she has even turned down opportunities outside of Iran: “In Iran, I may have hurdles… but it means that I will have to make the road clear for myself and other players to continue. That has a big meaning for me; that’s why I decided to stay back in Iran and help other drivers. To be strong and give them my motivation, to send them and my country a message.”
Currently, Laleh is training some 80 women in different areas of motorsports. In the 2014 FIA Middle East Regional Championship Rally held in Shiraz, Iran, Laleh Seddigh went head to head against competitors from across the region, and for the first time there were several lady time keepers, as well as support and logistics personnel, playing an active role in the managing an event of this caliber.
Having achieved championship titles in saloon car and professional rallying, Laleh Seddigh has branched into other fields of motorsports, as well as into historic vehicle events. Since the last many years Laleh has also been competing in historic vehicle events, as well as modern car rallies, participating in vehicles as diverse as a Renault 5 to Minis. She is also one of the national organizers of the national classic rallies, specifically the national Tehran to Shomal Rally. She currently heads the Women’s Commission of the Classic Vehicle Committee of Iran, which is the FIVA ANF and is also a part of the Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of Iran, the FIA ASN. In this capacity she has been working to attract more and more women to the historical vehicle events.
Laleh Seddigh has not been limiting her efforts to Iran only. In October 2015, at the FIVA AGM in Krakow, a meeting between the Classic Vehicle Committee of Iran and the Turkish AFN the Classic Car Club of Turkey, Iran joined an initiative started by Yeliz Belibey to attract more women to the historical vehicle movement. In full support of this initiative, Laleh Seddigh travelled to Turkey to compete in the Spring Classic Rally of Turkey, held on April, 23, 2016. The purpose of this trip was not only to show solidarity and support for the Turkish initiative, but to also promote more inter-regional ties between enthusiasts, in particular women, across the region.
Dr Laleh Seddigh’s story has the makings of a Hollywood movie for sure, and maybe we will hear more about this in some time. Nothing could be more appropriate to sum up with this movie tag line: “If you want to stop me, you have to catch me first.”
– Ramin Salehkhou, MAFIRI