Saudi Arabia’s First Female Olympic Athletes Called ‘Prostitutes’


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.

Aljohara responds:

@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.

Saudi blogger Eman Al Najfan shares her thoughts on Saudi women and the Olympics here and here. The two articles are also cross-posted in The Guardian.

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.


Related Stories:

6 Female Olympians To Watch in London

FIFA Overturns Headscarf Ban for Female Soccer Players

8 Stories of “Vanishing” Muslim Women (Slideshow)


Photo: zbigphotography/flickr


Janet B.
Janet B6 years ago

Sorry......I do not agree Islam will never change! They do not want just leave it at that....

Neil A.
Neil A6 years ago

Saudi Arabia needs to get into the 21st century but doubt itwill happen soon, I wish those 2 all the best now & in the future.

Michael P.
Michael P6 years ago

Ban the face covering burka.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

These despotic, governments are being forced into the 21st Century by social pressure from the rest of the world. Think about that. This is a new phenomena. In the past century they did not care what the rest of the world thought. So, there is hope for the governments in that area, like Iran.

Arfiantriono A.
Arfiantriono A.6 years ago

Those Saudi women athletes should just get out of their country, go to Finland or Canada, they will definitely receive more respect there...

sharyn w.
sharyn w6 years ago

I hope for their safety,physical well being and their lives once they return home.

Sian Rider
Sian R6 years ago

I do think it's somewhat unfair to blame religion for attitudes towards women which have been part of our (the world's) culture since recorded history began.
Religions - be they Christian, Jewish, Islamic or tribal - have reflected the social mores of their time/s. The difference between fundamentalists and other is that the 'fundies' seek to turn the clock back - not necessarily to the start of the religion (which in all cases was better than even the present time) but to a dimly-remembered past when they felt in control.

As regards the twitter comments - Saudi Arabia doesn't have a monopoly on idiots; there are plenty of similar comments and worse emanating from our own countries.

Clifford A.
Clifford A.6 years ago

To some degree, and in many different ways, all patriarchal religions hate women. That is one reason that they are all dying. Islam just happens to be the worst of the bunch right now. It wasn't too long ago that Christianity was worst, and they are trying to catch up again.

Religion, by any name or type, is about controlling people, and we don't need it. It would be a wonderful thing if all of the religionists would make the world a better place. It really would be easy to do. All it would take is killing themselves. They are too brainless to change since they have given their wills over to their "religious" leaders, but that one simple act would remove enough hot air to possibly help reverse global warming at least spiritually.

Mabolsa Ritchie
Mabolsa Ritchie6 years ago

@ wci w

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you seem to think that islam is kind on women and gives them rights, and it's misinterpretation by extremists that we see in cases of this kind and in the acts of violence carried out all around the globe in the name of islam. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The so called extremists are actually the ones most closely following the path of islam which calls for violence against non muslims and for muslims to fight until islam dominates everywhere and no other relgion remains.

You mentioned mo's wife. Which one? I assume you meant the first one who was already a business woman before mo came along, but he had at least 9 and I have seen a list of somewhere around 34 of them. A damn site more that the measly 4 everyones else was allowed. Which, of course, doesn't include all the sex slaves taken as war booty in conquered lands.

There was one rule for ordinary muslims and another for him. Interestingly, his made up deity always gave him what he wanted, whether it was his step son's wife or a little 6 year old girl, his god always made sure he got his way. What a nasty creature he was and what a nasty religion he invented.

Aurea Walker

My deepest respect for these two courageous women. May they not suffer any harm for their actions.