Any country participating in the 2012 Olympics must allow female athletes to participate or risk being barred from global competition. Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict Wahabi interpration of Sunni Islam that prevents women from driving, traveling on their own or seeking certain medical procedures without a male relative’s approval, is one of the last hold-outs to follow the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s requirement regarding female athletes. With only 35 weeks before the Olympics will be held in London, Saudi Arabia has announced that women can join the team provided that they are living aboard. Currently, the Saudi government forbids women from participating in sports in state-run schools and there are no groups in the country organizing women’s sports.
18-year-old Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who lives aboard and won a bronze medal in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics, is the likely choice for Saudi Arabia’s Olympic team. Malhas went to the Youth Olympics at her own expense and told the Arab News:
“I didn’t care much about me being there as a representative of Saudi Arabia, because anyone could probably do that. But getting a medal was the key, and that’s not easy for anyone, and I wanted that — and only that gives recognition to my country
If Malhas does compete for Saudi Arabia, her event, equestrian competition, is far less likely to raise concerns among conservatives as riders compete fully clothed (though, of course, in pants), with only their hands and faces exposed.
Shura Report Claims Women Driving Will End Virginity
Buoyed by the Arab Spring protests, a number of Saudi women sought to defy the country’s ban on women driving by getting behind the wheel earlier this year. Some were detained and arrested for driving and one woman received a sentence of ten lashes; King Abdullah overturned the sentence. This past week, the Saudi Arabia’s legislative assembly, the Shura Council, published a report warning that women having the right to drive would mean the end of virginity in the country:
As part of his careful reform process, King Abdullah has allowed suggestions to surface that the ban might be reviewed.
This has angered the conservative religious elite – a key power base for any Saudi ruler.
Now, one of their number – well-known academic Kamal Subhi – has presented a new report to the country’s legislative assembly, the Shura.
The aim was to get it to drop plans to reconsider the ban.
The report contains graphic warnings that letting women drive would increase prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.
One woman who has been campaigning for women to have the right to drive has said that the report is “completely mad” and that the head of the Shura has said that the government is still considering lifting the ban.
Human Rights Repression
Amnesty International recently issued a new report describing a “new wave of repression” in Saudi Arabia at the same time as, throughout the Middle East and North Africa, pro-democracy uprisings have occurred and unseated the authoritarian rulers of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Read more: amnesty international, arab spring, arab spring protests, Equestrian, flogging, islamic law, lashes, manal al sharif, middle east, mideast, olympics, olympics 2012, saudi arabia, sunni, voting rights, women 2 drive, Women's rights
Photo by Nouf AL Kinani نوف ال كناني
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