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Sat 28 Jul 2012 02:12 PM

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Saudi Arabia's Olympic females 'not enough'

Human Rights Watch says more needs to be done to address gender discrimination

Saudi Arabia's Olympic females 'not enough'
Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia enters the stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium. Attar is one of the first female athletes to compete for Saudi Arabia at the Olympics. (Getty Images)

The participation of two Saudi female athletes in the London Olympics is an important first step but does not go far enough in addressing entrenched problems of gender discrimination in the kingdom, Human Rights Watch has said.

The US rights group said in a statement that Saudi Arabia should end the effective ban preventing millions of women and girls from practicing sports inside the kingdom.

Two female athletes will represent Saudi Arabia: Wujdan Shahrkhani in judo and Sarah Attar in track and field.

“That two women will compete for the Saudi team for the first time in the history of the Olympics is a first step,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

“But the race for gender equality in Saudi Arabia cannot be won until the millions of women and girls who are now deprived of athletic opportunities can also exercise their right to practice sports.”

On July 5, an official from the Saudi sports ministry denied a request by private citizens to hold a women’s Ramadan sports tournament featuring basketball, volleyball, and football (soccer), HRW said, adding that a Sports Ministry official gave no reason for denying permission for the tournament.

Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bars girls from taking part in sport in government schools.

The ban on women’s private, for-fee and fully equipped sports clubs has forced women to largely restrict themselves to “health” facilities, usually attached to hospitals that rarely feature swimming pools, a running track, or playing fields for team sports, it added.

It said membership fees there are beyond the means of many ordinary Saudi women and girls.

"These forms of gender discrimination clearly violate the Olympic Charter, which states in the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism that 'any form of discrimination' including on the basis of gender, is 'incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement',” the statement added.

“Saudi women and girls cannot play sports – and they cannot even watch sports in stadiums,” Worden said.

Human Rights Watch said it has long urged the IOC to use its leverage with Saudi Arabia to get the country’s sports leaders to conform to the values and principles of the Olympic Movement by adopting policies that will benefit all Saudi women and girls.

It said that Saudi Arabia must establish a timeline for introducing physical education as a mandatory subject for girls in public and private schools.

It should also allow the creation of women’s gyms and sports clubs.

“The world should cheer Wujdan Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar as they make history in London, but we must also remember millions of women and girls inside Saudi Arabia who can only watch from the sidelines,” Worden said.

“The IOC can move the ball down the field for women’s sports by making it clear for future Olympics that if you don’t play by the rules, you should not play at all.”

bin Ghazzi 7 years ago

Saudi Arabia should do what they think is right for them, its a ancient civilisation and it doesnt need to be ordered around by the west.

Hayle 7 years ago

Spoken like a male who is not being denied the right to play sport.

procan 7 years ago

@bin Ghazzi.... KSA is doing what they want, it is a small start but none the less a start. Good show move forward .I suggest Canada teach there girls to play hockey also and get the KSA in the winter games medals !

Nadeem 7 years ago

Great, Saudi Arabia is Saudi Arabia, and it is the most respectable country in the world.

Their women's are more beautiful and jewel and not a piece of stone to display in Olympic.

Boycott Olympic.

Arabian business team : Please respect your countries don't fall into west media propaganda and publish such bad articles

Johar 7 years ago

I respect the Saudi View,

Western world who says women should be allowed in sports, media etc are actually misusing Women and misguiding women.

In there definition Women's means a flesh whose body parts are open to be use for personal benefits.
They think a naked women is beauty.

But the truth is women;s are more powerful and beautiful in Saudi Arabia compare to any other country.

And there is no need for Saudi Arabia to send a Women in this or future Olympic.
I respect Saudi Arabia, I respect Saudi Arabia Women's

Colin Occupants 7 years ago

It sounds like you're afraid of women being empowered to make their own decisions. Why?

BritishInSaudi 7 years ago

First they said, "You dont send women",
Then, "Send women or be boycotted",
Then, "Saudi sends women",
Then, "You send too few",
Then, "These women cant do hijab".

Come on dont you see, these guys will never stop. Saudi should stop appeasing them and completely ignore them and tell them to mind their own business.


We welcome the new attitude from the Youngsters of Saudi Arabia. Even the elders in Saudi Arabia must encourage the young ones to involve the National and International Sports activities.

This way the new generations will come out of the old culture and get along with the Modern world which is very essential for all countries including Saudi Arabia.

Our good wishes .. and Mabrook..

Regards and God Bless Saudi Arabia.. towards the Modern world

Johar 7 years ago

No we are not afraid.

The truth is in west culture women are just treated like a display. no respect.

If you ever come to KSA, see here how much we take care of women and how much we respect womens.

There are bad thing happens to women in every country but the media just make a flash if anything happens in Arab.

zeelan Basha 7 years ago

Well said Nadeem!