Saudi Arabia Allows Women To Compete in London Olympics

Saudi Arabia is to allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time.

The public participation of women in sport is still fiercely opposed by many Saudi religious conservatives. There is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport in the country.

Saudi officials say that with the Games now just a few weeks away, the only female competitor at Olympic standard is showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas. But they added that there may be scope for others to compete and that if successful they would be dressed “to preserve their dignity”. In practice this is likely to mean modest, loose-fitting garments and “a sports hijab”, a scarf covering the hair but not the face.


For the desert kingdom, the decision to allow women to compete in the Olympics is a huge step, overturning deep-rooted opposition from those opposed to any public role for women. As recently as April, the indications were that Saudi Arabia’s rulers would accede to the sensitivities of the religious conservatives and maintain the ban on allowing women to take part. But for the past six weeks there have been intense, behind-the-scenes discussions led by King Abdullah, who has long been pushing for women to play a more active role in Saudi society.

It is not the first time a Saudi monarch has backed a controversial reform against domestic opposition. King Faisal, who introduced television in the 1960s and was eventually assassinated, insisted on introducing education for girls. Today, Saudi women graduates outnumber their male counterparts.

Do you think letting Saudi women participate in the Olympics is a good decision? What other aspects do you think need more reform regarding women’s rights in Saudi?

Source: BBC News

Image: The News Tribe