Millions of Saudi women banned from sports: HRW

Published: June 26, 2012
Saudi Arabia had earlier disallowed female athlete from participating in the London Olympics. PHOTO: FILE

Saudi Arabia had earlier disallowed female athlete from participating in the London Olympics. PHOTO: FILE

DUBAI: Human Rights Watch warned on Monday that despite a Saudi announcement which allows its women nationals to participate in the 2012 Olympics, millions of women are still banned from sports in the kingdom.

“It’s an important step forward, but fails to address the fundamental barriers to women playing sports in the kingdom,” the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.

“Millions of (Saudi) girls are banned from playing sports in schools, and women are prohibited from playing team sports and denied access to sports facilities, including gyms and swimming pools,” HRW added.

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London issued a statement on Sunday announcing that women will be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time.

The Saudi Olympic Committee will “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify,” the BBC quoted the statement as saying.

So far there has been no official confirmation of the report from Saudi Arabia, and none of the local newspapers reported the announcement on Monday.

The issue of women participating in sports remains extremely sensitive in the kingdom, where women are not even allowed to drive and the authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010.

Equestrian contestant Dalma Malhas is likely to be the country’s only female athlete to qualify for this summer’s Games in London which get under way on July 27.

The fact that “so few (Saudi) women are qualified to compete at the Olympic level is due entirely to the country’s restrictions on women’s rights,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at HRW.

Worden urged the Saudi authorities to “allow sports in schools, gyms for women, and to add women to the Saudi National Olympic Committee immediately.”

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the only three countries never to have sent women athletes to the Olympics.

Qatar has already announced it will send a three-woman team to London, comprising shooter Bahia Al-Hamad, swimmer Nada Wafa Arakji and Noor Al-Malki, a 100m and 200m sprinter.

Brunei, meanwhile, will send a woman to London as part of its two-athlete delegation — 400m hurdler Maziah Mahusin.

Saudi Arabia’s decision could provoke resistance in the country which operates under a strict Islamic code under which women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe.

There had been increasing pressure on the Saudis to fall into line over sending a women’s team with International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge admitting in April that he was conducting lengthy talks with the kingdom’s rulers.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • rana
    Jun 26, 2012 - 2:52AM

    Kufar will never pleased with Muslim untill Muslim become fully like them :P


  • OG
    Jun 26, 2012 - 4:54AM

    This is sad! Women being treated like 2nd class citizens. In fact not even 2nd class citizens; they are being treated like if their not even human and just another property that belongs to the Saudi men! do they have no love for their mothers and sisters? It’s funny how when Islam came into being; it gave women more rights then they had elsewhere in the world. And now, Women have barley any rights in the land where Islam came into being. Just sad!


  • Sonya
    Jun 26, 2012 - 8:24AM

    The ceremonial participation in the Olympics on west’s pressure without any impact in the Saudi society is not going to help Saudis in general and women in particular. To have a real respect among the union of nations, and for the greater good in the muslim world, this country needs an Arab spring which is long long due.Recommend

  • no one
    Jun 26, 2012 - 9:17AM

    Let those arabians live in their old world .Why West is so serious about it ? If they become aware , then they will take no time to throw US settlements out of Middle east …


  • xoya
    Jun 26, 2012 - 9:24AM

    so now where are the woman rights ?
    dont they follow the Holy Quran .


  • m. saeed awan
    Jun 26, 2012 - 10:16AM

    Its really shocking that in such Global era, Saudi kings still follow middle age philosphy. What use of Mohammad (PBUH) revolution when he says that women should not be treated like slaves. Women have enough potential to compete in every walk of life. So give them chance and don’t let West to raise finger on Muslims.


  • Akshay
    Jun 26, 2012 - 10:39AM

    Shame on Saudis. Women must have equal rights and only a secular liberal society can provide it, religious society can’t provide it.


  • Ateeb
    Jun 26, 2012 - 4:42PM

    The splendor of absolute monarchy in its most vivid apparel.


  • DevilHunterX
    Jun 26, 2012 - 4:53PM

    and vice versa. What’s your point again?


  • Zalim Singh
    Jun 26, 2012 - 5:21PM

    Women are nothing but the comodities for men to own – in Islamic cultures. They are less valuable to them than their goats or camels.


  • Mj
    Jun 26, 2012 - 6:00PM

    This gender apartheid has to end.


  • Amjad
    Jun 26, 2012 - 6:04PM

    @rana: Why do you think that people think of Saudis as the worst people in the world? Is it all unfounded. Here in Canada, the term Saudi Arabia is synonymous with being backward and uneducated. They are thought of as the most regressive of all Muslim nations.


  • Maz3tt
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:05AM

    there is a rising trend among people that they think that the more religious(in Islam) you are the more backward you become. which is very sad.


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