Saturday, June 3, 2023

In a man-ruled kingdom, an Iranian woman goes all alone

A female Iranian bus driver has hit the road to prove that women don’t have to take a back seat to men as far as certain jobs are concerned.

Narges Asadpour is a seasoned long-haul bus driver traveling back and forth between Tehran and Khomein. What makes her stand out from the crowd of her fellow female bus drivers is that she quit driving an inner-city bus – the first job she had when she started her driving career – and hit the intercity roads.

What encouraged IFP to translate an excerpt of her interview with Chaharrah (Intersection) – a monthly journal – were her wisely eloquent answers to questions posed by the magazine’s Mojtaba Kaveh:

Men have a monopoly over driving buses in Iran, how did you develop an interest in this profession and how did you learn it?

It’s true that in our country men hold a monopoly on driving heavy vehicles, but women are not specifically banned from the job. I was interested in it and was able to land my favorite job. Mind you, I took my lumps to get here. That’s the rule of life: One has to go through a lot to achieve his ambitions.

Did your family approve of your decision? Did they talk you into or out of it?

From the get-go, my family did not want me to start this career but when they saw how eager I was, they were convinced and even encouraged me. […] My father was a teacher. He did not disapprove of me becoming a driver.

It’s huge responsibility to be a long-haul bus driver. What stages have you gone through to assume such responsibility?

Before I became a long-haul bus driver, I drove a refrigerated mini-truck for an ice cream factory. Driving such a vehicle helped me learn how to drive semi-heavy vehicles and excel at it. After a while, I felt that I was capable of driving heavy vehicles. That’s why I took a driving test for heavy vehicles and got the license. Afterward, I became a [Tehran] BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) driver and then I was employed by a tourist agency to drive a bus carrying tourists to different cities. Such experience set the stage for me to drive a long-haul bus.


How do people and passengers treat you? Do they trust you as a reliable bus driver? Do you spot worry and disbelief in their behavior when they see you?

At first, when passengers get on the bus and see me at the wheel, they get startled. Some look at each other in astonishment or even whisper something in each other’s ear. I think such a reaction is natural, because I have stepped into a realm dominated by men. However, it won’t take more than a few minutes for passengers’ curiosity and anxiety to be replaced with calm. People can tell good driving from careless driving, and I can feel the sense of peace on their faces while driving.

Some of my male colleagues used to doubt my driving skills, too. With time, however, they developed confidence in my driving abilities. For Iranian women, it’s not very difficult to make those in charge of male-dominated jobs change their mind and have faith in them. To turn disbelief and distrust into confidence and trust we as women need to have positive thoughts and believe ourselves.

Have you ever had an accident?

Thank God, since I started driving, I have been not in even one accident. I owe this honor to a number of things. I am of the opinion that my safe and good driving has set the stage for other women to embark on driving heavy vehicles. My family’s prayers and the peace of mind that they convey to me contribute substantially to my safe driving.

Do you drive a Scania? What’s your idea about it?

I have driven Volvo and Scania. There are a lot of rumors surrounding the safety of Scania which I think are not true at all. Fueling such rumors which are not confirmed by experts could only take a toll on our national transportation system.

If buses undergo accurate vehicle inspections, if their engines and parts are not tampered with, if their tires, engines and other parts are regularly checked [for safety reasons] and above all if an experienced and committed driver drives them, there will be no problem.

I have a different question to ask you. Ms. Asadpoor, have your wording and behavior been influenced by your job? I mean, in terms of behavior and the words you adopt, have you become violent?

Violent! Why?! [Laughing] Not only will driving, especially driving on intercity roads, not turn you violent, but the peace and quiet of nature along the road will soothe your soul. I have always wanted my behavior to be influenced by my character not by what is going on around me.

The final word: […] hail to my dear compatriots, all passengers, and male and female drivers who protect the lives of their passengers by driving carefully and safely.

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