Mosul’s ‘Queen’ of driving

Female driving instructor empowers women behind the wheel

MOSUL — For the past nine years, Ibtisam Al-Tai has been a beacon of empowerment for women in Mosul, teaching them to drive and fostering a new generation of female driving instructors. Her office, named “Queen” and located in the Al-Noor neighborhood, functions as an academy that provides both practical and theoretical driving lessons.

Ibtisam, affectionately known as “Umm Omar,” offers a one-week course for 150,000 dinars ($114) and a twelve-day course for 175,000 dinars ($133), inclusive of all expenses such as fuel, instructor fees, and office commissions. Despite local misconceptions, she proudly reports no accidents among her trainees.

“I learned to drive in 2003 from my husband. During ISIS’s control in 2014, women were prohibited from learning or driving, but I was determined to train them. My husband had a training office, so I proposed that he train men while I focused on women. The idea was successful, and demand increased significantly after the city’s liberation,” Ibtisam told 964media.

ISIS controlled the city for years following their lightning advance across much of Iraq from their strongholds in Syria.

In conservative Mosul, Ibtisam established an all-female staff to create a comfortable environment for her trainees. This approach has been highly successful, with all her students becoming proficient drivers. Her office, licensed by the General Traffic Directorate, includes a lounge for instructors, a lecture room for traffic signs, and a specialized program to prepare trainees for their driving test.

Some women attend the one-week course to improve their driving skills, while beginners typically enroll in the twelve-day course. Ibtisam emphasizes that the quality of instruction is more important than the duration of training.

Ibtisam also encourages women to become driving instructors. To qualify, an instructor must have at least five years of driving experience and a comprehensive knowledge of the city. Ibtisam trains them in instructional techniques and effective communication, ensuring they can confidently teach new drivers.

Over the past nine years, Ibtisam has become a well-known figure in Mosul. Most driving schools seek her out for training instructors, and she is always ready to mentor new ones.

Ibtisam observes that many male drivers lack proper “driving culture and awareness.” She notes, “I often see men arguing in the streets and harassing female drivers, especially beginners. I hope that all drivers will become more respectful and understanding of women drivers.”

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