Written by Amira Al Hussaini
Saudi Arabia will be sending two female athletes to the 2012 London Olympics, which officially began Friday. Wojdan Shaherkani (Judo) and Sarah Attar (athletics) will be the first two women to ever represent the kingdom, where conservative religious clerics forbid the participation of women in competitive sports.
On Twitter, their anticipated involvement in the games set off a flurry of reactions, including a hash tag which described them as the “Prostitutes of the Olympics.”
Saudi Arabia’s earlier announcement that women would be excluded from London 2012 was faced with a call for banning the kingdom from the Olympics.
The participation of women under the Saudi flag comes under conditions: that they would not compete in mixed games and that they would dress up conservatively, among others.
On Twitter, Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran shares the line up of athletes representing his country at the Olympics and quips:
@Ahmed: List of Saudi athletes who will compete in London Olympics. Interestingly, Sarah Attar appears without a headscarf
On his own blog, Al Omran further elaborates:
To appease the clerics, Saudi most senior sports official Prince Nawaf bin Faisal announced a set of rules for women’s participation at the Olympics. Athletes can only take part if they do so “wearing suitable clothing that complies with sharia” and “the athlete’s guardian agrees and attends with her,” he told local daily al-Jazirah. “There must also be no mixing with men during the Games,” he added.
On Twitter, a Saudi Twitter user allegedly called Sultan Al Hilali spread the hash tag #عاهرات_الاولمبياد which translates to The Prostitutes of the Olympics, reportedly in reference to the Saudi athletes taking part in the games. The hash tag got many angry responses, as well as a few in its support.
@SkittlesFairy: You remind me of Europe in the Dark Ages; you insult this and slur that person in the name of religion. This religion has nothing to do with you.
Rasha Al Dowasi adds:
@Rsha_D: Muslim athletes from Muslim countries have been participating in the Olympics for years. Sport only becomes prostitution when Saudi women practices it
Many netizens also called for the prosecution of the Twitter user who came up with the hash tag. A screen shot of the tweet which calls the women taking part in the games as prostitutes is making the rounds online. The aim is to name and shame the person behind the hash tag.
Other countries sending female athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time are neighbouring Qatar and Brunei.
This post was originally published by Global Voices.