It's a men's-only club in the tangle of auto repair shops on the traffic-clogged streets of Iran's capital, Tehran. Among them, workers toil in dim garages, welding and wrenching, fabricating and painting.
That's until Maryam Roohani, 34, pops up from under a car's hood at a maintenance shop in northeastern Tehran, her dirt- and grease-stained uniform pulled over black jeans and long hair tucked into a baseball cap - which in her work, replaces Iran's compulsory Islamic headscarf for women, or hijab.
Buffing a blue BMW sedan in the shop until it shines, she couldn't be farther from the farms of her childhood. In the rural, tribal village of Agh Mazar near Iran's northeastern border with Turkmenistan, girls get married after hitting puberty and devote their lives to raising children."I have sort of broken taboos," Roohani said at the garage, where she carefully coats cars with attention-getting gleams and scrapes sludge from their engines. "I faced opposition when I chose this path."
The auto industry remains male-dominated around the world, let alone in the tradition-bound Islamic Republic. Still Iranian women, especially in the cities, have made inroads over the years. They now make up over half of all college graduates and a sizable part of the workforce.
A farmer's daughter, Roohani grew up laboring on the land like most other children in Agh Mazar. But unlike her five siblings, she had her eyes on her father's tractor, and developed an uncanny knack for driving it at an early age.Even as she worked as a hairdresser and studied to become a makeup artist in Bojnurd, the provincial capital, a greater passion pulled her in: applying finishes to cars.
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