Saudi Arabia to Let Women Compete at Olympics

Saudi Arabia took a small step toward equality Sunday, as it reversed course and announced that some of its female athletes will be allowed to compete at the Olympics for the first time.

The decision marks a reversal from April, when the Saudis had said women would not be allowed to compete.

While the announced policy fell well short of allowing Saudi women to compete on an equal footing with Saudi men, it represented a step forward for a society where women’s rights are severely curtailed.

Saudi women will be allowed to compete if they can be dressed “to preserve their dignity.” Women from other conservative Muslim nations have worn sports hijabs, which are designed to allow women to compete with their hair and skin covered.

At least one Saudi woman, equestrian competitor Dalma Rushdi Malhas, is considered at “Olympic standard” by the Saudi Olympic Committee.

Saudi Arabia is the last nation to announce it will allow women to compete at the Olympics. Brunei and Qatar have not sent women to compete previously, but both countries have said they will send women to compete at the 2012 games in London.

Saudi Arabia has been strongly criticized for its treatment of women. Women are required to have male guardians no matter their age, and are kept separate from men in day-to-day life. Women often must eat in sex-segregated areas in restaurants, are prohibited from driving and are only allowed to work with the permission of their guardians.

While women being allowed to participate at the Olympics is a definite step forward, Saudi society is far from accepting of female athletes. Women’s athletics are strongly discouraged in most of Saudi society, and few outlets for female athletes exist.

Related Stories

Saudi Arabia Says No To Sending Women To Olympics

Women Athletes, Women Drivers: Not In Saudi Arabia

A Family Living in a Cemetery in Saudi Arabia


Photoillustration by Jeff Fecke

41 comments

Dresia Vaughn
Dresia Vaughn1 years ago

a lady from that part of the world was shot in the head because she wanted and feel women should have education. well i'm glad she survived and the person that shot her, needs to be shot the same way. Forgive me Lord, but it's not right.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

ii q.
g d c.4 years ago

wasn't there an saction against SA - IOC banning them from Olympics?

ii q.
g d c.4 years ago

hmmm...

Pamela H.
Pamela H.4 years ago

Fast forward this video to 7.45 minutes to see what it occurring in the western world now. This is especially for those who are burying their heads in the sand: http://www.mrctv.org/videos/my-home-town-fanatics-stacey-dooley-investigates

No one believed there were nazi concentration camps or Fascist control until it was too late too.

Pamela H.
Pamela H.4 years ago

And notice in the middle east the women are forced to cover their whole bodies in black in that stifling heat! Black is known to absorb the heat, and white reflects heat. So naturally the men get to wear white.

Dresia Vaughn
Dresia Vaughn4 years ago

It's about dam time, they can compete. I, Dresia Vaughn, think it's sad and inhumane and I"m glad I wasn't born in that part of the world because I would have moved a long time ago, but that they control the women, tell them they can't drive a car, participate in sports, keep their whole bodies covered except their eyes, while they, the men, enjoy the sun rays on their heads and bodies, do what the hell they want to do. You didn't birth these women in your country, how dare you control their life. If I had my way, and I were in charge of the world, no country, like this country would control their women. Women have a right just like men do to exist.

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

Yeah .... welcome to 1900!

Pamela H.
Pamela H.4 years ago

But that's the problem Shan D, unless it's virtually glued to their heads it will obstruct their vision; as well as cause excessive sweating. How would their men like to have to train and compete with such head coverings? It is cruel and inhumane. But that's not at all surprising from a country of Neanderthal misogynists and gynophobes.