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    » 06/26/2012, 00.00

    SAUDI ARABIA

    Saudi Arabia confirms: women can attend the Olympics



    The decision was taken to avoid the exclusion of the kingdom for gender discrimination. So far the only qualified athlete is Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who will compete in showjumping. The other athletes will be selected in the coming weeks. A uniform is already prepared with a sports hijab.

    Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - For the first time ever, Saudi women can participate in the Olympics. The Saudi embassy in London announced the news yesterday, stressing that so far the only athlete able to participate is Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who has already qualified for equestrian competitions. Born in Ohio (U.S.), but with a Saudi passport, Malhas already participated in the Beijing Olympics in 2010. However, Riyadh has not ruled out other athletes who will be selected in the coming weeks. To preserve their dignity and the dictates of the Islamic Sharia, the women will wear a "sport hijab" that covers the neck, but not the face. The decision was taken after a long standoff between King Abdullah and the religious authorities, who are opposed to increasing women's participation in society. They would have agreed only to avoid the exclusion of Saudi Arabia from the Games for gender discrimination.

    In February, Human Rights Watch released a report on women and sport in the country, asking the Saudi government to respect the right of women to practice a sport and the International Olympic Committee to take action against Saudi Arabia. The Olympic Charter - which establishes the general rules of the Games - provides for the exclusion of any country that practices a form of discrimination. The norm in the past has been applied several times: South Africa, for example, was unable to participate in competitions from 1964 to 1992 because of apartheid, while Afghanistan was banned from the 2000 Olympics because of women's oppression under the Taliban regime.

    According to some Saudi officials, King Abdullah is trying to modernize Saudi society, starting precisely from a greater empowerment of women, but he is opposed by the more conservative wing of the government and by religious leaders. "The monarch", they say, "has allowed the participation of women in the Shura Council [an advisory body of the kingdom]. Participation in the Olympic Games is part of an ongoing process, not an isolated case."

    In Saudi Arabia women live under the strict dictates of Quranic law. They are obliged to wear the full veil, can only leave their homes when accompanied by men and cannot drive a car. In the past, other monarchs have attempted to reform the Saudi society. The first was King Faisal, who in the '60s introduced compulsory education for girls. Today, women graduates outnumber their male counterparts.

     

     

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    See also

    31/07/2012 G. BRITAIN - S. ARABIA
    London 2012: Saudi judoka can compete (with veil)
    The athlete will participate wearing special headgear. Originally, the International Judo Federation (IJF) had admitted Wojdan AliSeraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, but only bare-headed "for security reasons." The girl's father has threatened to withdraw her from competition. She will compete on 3 August in the +78 kg category.

    22/01/2010 SAUDI ARABIA – PHILIPPINES
    Riyadh: rape victim might be lashed 100 times
    Woman becomes pregnant after being raped. As a result of the harsh prison conditions, she lost her child. Under Islamic law, extra-marital relations are forbidden and for the law any sexual violence involved makes no difference

    22/03/2012 SAUDI ARABIA
    For the first time Saudi female athletes at the Olympics
    A decision to this effect was taken by Prince Nayef, provided participation "meets the standards of decency and women do not contradict Islamic law", the pro-government Arab News, an editorial states the need to guarantee equal rights to women.

    26/09/2011 SAUDI ARABIA
    Riyadh: even women can vote. But only in four years
    King Abdullah announces on television that women have the right to vote and be elected to municipal councils. He added that some may be called to the Shura Council, an advisory body of the sovereign.

    28/09/2011 SAUDI ARABIA
    Woman sentenced to 10 lashes for driving through the streets of Jeddah:
    Only men are allowed behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia. This is the first sentence imposed by a judge, in the past women were arrested for few days, then released. Women's rights movement announces an appeal. For activists, the sentence shows the gap between promises and reality of openness of an ultra-conservative society.



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