6:55 pm - 07/15/2012

Saudi Arabia allows women to be in Olympics


CAIRO (AP) — Across the world, word that Saudi Arabia would send women athletes to the Olympics for the first time immediately rocketed to the top of websites and broadcasts. In Saudi Arabia's official media: Not even a hint.

The state-sponsored silent treatment was a lesson into the deep intricacies and sensitivities inside the kingdom as it took another measured step away from its ultraconservative traditions.

While Saudi rulers found room to accommodate the demands of the International Olympic Committee to include women athletes, they also clearly acknowledged that — in their view at least — this did not merit billing as a pivotal moment of reform in a nation that still bans women from driving or traveling without the approval of a male guardian.

"It does not change the fact that Saudi women are not free to move and to choose," said political analyst Mona Abass in neighboring Bahrain. "The Saudis may use it to boost their image, but it changes little."

Even the two athletes selected to compete under the Saudi flag — 800-meter runner Sarah Attar from Pepperdine University in California and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo — live outside the kingdom and carry almost no influence as sports figures. There is no other choice: Women sports remain nearly an underground activity in Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed al-Marzooqi, editor of a website that aims to cover women and men's sporting events in Saudi Arabia, viewed Thursday's announcement as mostly an attempt to quiet international pressure on the lone nation trying to stick with an all-male Olympic team. The other former holdouts, Brunei and Qatar, had already added women Olympic athletes — with Qatar even planning to have a woman carry its flag in London later this month.

"We are still disappointed here," al-Marzooqi said from the Saudi city of Jiddah. "I should be happy for them, but this will do nothing for women who want to be in sport in Saudi Arabia."

Still, the opening is not without significance.

The Saudi decision must have received at least some nod from the nation's Islamic religious establishment, which hold de facto veto power over nearly all key moves by the Western-allied monarchy and gives the royal court its legitimacy to rule over a nation with Islam's holiest sites.

The inherent two-way tug — change-resistant clerics and leaders sensing reform pressures from the streets — has allowed enough slack for some slow-paced movement. King Abdullah has promised to allow women to run and vote in municipal elections in 2015. He also has tried to rein in the country's feared morality police while challenges to the established order are growing bolder from a population, nearly half of which is under the age of 30.

Saudi women activists have gotten behind the wheel to oppose the driving ban, and bloggers churn out manifestos about how the Arab Spring will one day hit Saudi shores.

"If Saudi does field women athletes, it is immensely interesting," said Simon Henderson, a Saudi affairs expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "This flies against the traditions of having a woman not make a public display of herself or mixing with men. Now, the world could see women marching with men in the opening ceremony and — even more — women running in competition."

It's impossible to gauge the internal discussions before the Saudi Olympic decision, but Henderson speculated it could have influenced by Abdullah's daughter, Adila, who has been an outspoken advocate of reforms such as ending the driving ban on women. On the other end of the spectrum, senior Saudi clerics have issued a host of edicts against almost all types of sporting activities for women.

"Of course this will bring backlash from many religious leaders," said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute of Gulf Affairs that has been behind the "No Women No Play" campaign that called for an Olympic ban for Saudi Arabia if it resisted adding women. "This fight is far from over."

As recently as April, a Saudi newspaper quoted the head of the Saudi Olympic Committee as saying he did not approve of sending women to the Olympics — suggesting instead they could compete on their own under a neutral flag.

A similar arrangement was made at the Youth Olympics in 2010 for Saudi equestrian competitor Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who won a bronze medal in show jumping.

"Allowing women to compete under the Saudi flag in the London Games will set an important precedent," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch "But without policy changes to allow women and girls to play sports and compete within the kingdom, little can change for millions of women and girls deprived of sporting opportunities."

For the wider Muslim world region, the Saudi decision also is unlikely to have a transformative sweep since the kingdom trailed behind even Afghanistan in opening to women sports.

Increasing numbers are taking part in regional sports competition and there are few sports Muslim women aren't represented in — with Afghanis boxing, Pakistanis playing cricket and Emiratis in the Arabian Gulf taking up football and weightlifting. Iran, too, is considered one of the growing powers in women rugby in Asia.

But most experts acknowledged this progress is fragile and vulnerable to age-old cultural pressures.

Weightlifters in the United Arab Emirates have been attacked on social media and the Kuwaiti soccer team was denounced several years ago on its return from a tournament by conservative lawmakers who want a ban on all international competitions. In Iraq, a women's wrestling club disbanded in 2009 after receiving death threats from religious groups.

Muslim women also face hurdles from the West as well. While rugby, volleyball and taekwondo federations allow head scarves, the football federation FIFA waited until this month to lift a ban — standing by rules designed for safety but seen by Muslims as discriminatory.

"This is a first small step," said Raija Mattila, co-chairman of the Finland-based International Working Group on Women and Sport. "It's good for the international stage, but we hope that it opens up sports opportunities for women and girls inside Saudi Arabia. So this is just a small first step."

Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2012/07/13/saudis-olympic-opening-to-women-small-step
Page 1 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>
reginageorge 16th-Jul-2012 12:39 am (UTC)
this is awesome
jinnycalderone 16th-Jul-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
thats great!!
trinity_squared 16th-Jul-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
baby steps, I guess, I hope they do well
anus 16th-Jul-2012 12:42 am (UTC)
I can't imagine getting DEATH THREATS because I want to play a fucking sport. Chillax, kids.
goofusgallant 16th-Jul-2012 01:40 am (UTC)
yinker 16th-Jul-2012 12:44 am (UTC)
welp, it's a start. kudos
brandon198403 16th-Jul-2012 12:45 am (UTC)
baby steps, but it's a start!
swissbeauty23 16th-Jul-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
this fucking country...

well, this is good news
r4wrdinosaur 16th-Jul-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
This is an interesting read about one of the athletes.


Edited at 2012-07-16 12:47 am (UTC)
fauxparadiso 16th-Jul-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
As recently as April, a Saudi newspaper quoted the head of the Saudi Olympic Committee as saying he did not approve of sending women to the Olympics — suggesting instead they could compete on their own under a neutral flag.

Go fuck yourself, bro.
swissbeauty23 16th-Jul-2012 12:48 am (UTC)
anchors_oceans 16th-Jul-2012 01:22 am (UTC)
if that was me, i'd totally make a flag with a massive picture of a vagina on it. i'd be like, "is that better, officials? does this make you more comfortable?"
pamelalillian 16th-Jul-2012 02:23 am (UTC)
trikc 16th-Jul-2012 06:03 am (UTC)
I know you're joking but there's no doubt you'd be stoned to death if you did.
effulgentnida 16th-Jul-2012 09:58 am (UTC)
jessi_cola 16th-Jul-2012 02:21 am (UTC)
I can't...
saltireflower 16th-Jul-2012 04:10 am (UTC)
Fucking ridiculous.
effulgentnida 16th-Jul-2012 09:59 am (UTC)
yeah lets not let them represent their country ffs!
swissbeauty23 16th-Jul-2012 12:48 am (UTC)
noneformethanx 16th-Jul-2012 12:48 am (UTC)
It's progress. Gotta start somewhere so that's good
evilgmbethy 16th-Jul-2012 12:51 am (UTC)
well, maybe it doesn't change anything in the sense of more legal rights for Saudi women, but I bet it means the world to the athletes who get to go, and I'm a huge sap when it comes to the Olympics, so :')
trikc 16th-Jul-2012 06:05 am (UTC)
so am I. Especially when they take the podium for their medals. To see someone, regardless of country, achieve something they've worked for their entire lives. It's priceless.
actxappalledx 16th-Jul-2012 12:51 am (UTC)
Well, it's something!

I cannot WAIT for the Olympics! I am going to hermit myself in my house the whole time that they're on, tbh.
jay_oats 16th-Jul-2012 12:58 am (UTC)
I am having olympic parties with strict red white and blue dress codes and american beers only.
actxappalledx 16th-Jul-2012 01:11 am (UTC)
That sounds amazing! Unfortunately, everyone I know are losers who don't gaf about the olympics :(
littlecookie 16th-Jul-2012 01:15 am (UTC)
My friends and I have Olympic parties every 4 years where everyone has to come dressed in "uniforms" of their fav Olympic sports! I am beyond excited!
la_bandida 16th-Jul-2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
This is something that I must convince my girlfriend to allow at our apartment sometime during the Olympics.
evilgmbethy 16th-Jul-2012 01:03 am (UTC)
I know, I fuckin' love me some Olympic games.
kimberwyn 16th-Jul-2012 01:11 am (UTC)
right? this month is going by so slow D: (well not really just not fast enough lol)
slaygalthessily 16th-Jul-2012 05:34 am (UTC)
lol. i'm doing the same thing. i put in for vacation for the games this year.
lloydsgurl 16th-Jul-2012 12:51 am (UTC)
it's moments like this when even my dad (I think) can't fault me for rooting for another country at the Olympics.
the_landlady 16th-Jul-2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Good for the Saudi women, but I have had nothing but negative experiences with Saudi men. There is a pretty large population in my school's MBA program (they are in the Abdullah scholarship program), and EVERY time I am paired with one of them for a group project, they say something misogynistic. UGH.
dropdeadpirate 16th-Jul-2012 01:02 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you have to deal with that bb. I wouldn't have the patience.
the_landlady 16th-Jul-2012 01:10 am (UTC)
Thank you, bb. Sometimes the only thing holding me back from slapping the shit out of them is my school's honor code. :)
snappple 16th-Jul-2012 01:04 am (UTC)
can you imagine being a repressed women from SA being stuck with these pigs?
lucciolaa 16th-Jul-2012 01:06 am (UTC)
I've only had an experience with one Saudi boy, he lived in my uni residence. He smuggled a subwoofer into the building and blasted shitty eurotrash music day and night and when I confronted him, he was so dismissive and so rude to both me and my roommate for speaking up to him.

Our school offers an exchange program in Dubai and female students are strongly discouraged from applying smh ETA: I know Dubai isn't in SA but they have very similar values there

Edited at 2012-07-16 01:08 am (UTC)
wristtattoos 16th-Jul-2012 01:12 am (UTC)

there are a few saudi kids my bf is friends with and they are despicable
anchors_oceans 16th-Jul-2012 01:28 am (UTC)
a bunch of them were in the exchange program at my university. they used to come up to me and my friends and DEMAND that we go home with them as their wives. it was pretty scary because they'd start yelling and that's honestly the way it is over there.

then one of them walked into my friend's room while she was drunk and he basically tried to rape her because he wanted sex and was "supposed" to give it to him. luckily she woke up, pushed him off, and ran to my room. she pressed charges but there wasn't enough evidence. right after he was let go, all of his saudi friends harassed her all year and no officer would help her.

i know that not everyone from saudi arabia is like that, but ALL of the saudi's at my uni were and i never felt safe around them. they were always so creepy and mean. :(
fierysadness 16th-Jul-2012 03:18 am (UTC)
I'm a Saudi male and tbfh, most Saudi teen males are fucking disgusting.
reczko 17th-Jul-2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
there are so many at my school. i lived in a building mostly filled with foreigners. they were mostly east africans and korean, but there were quite a few saudis. all drove american muscle cars, wore american eagle and hollister and were total douche bags.
Page 1 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>
This page was loaded Sep 20th 2014, 2:06 pm GMT.