Saudi woman will be competing in judo donning hijab

This year in the 2012 Olympics women are competing from every country that is participating in the Olympics including, for the first time ever, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar. To be clear, Qatar and Brunei weren’t as resistant as our dear friends in the Middle East–Saudi Arabia who made women’s inclusion next to impossible. They finally gave in when the International Olympic committee threatened to ban their participation in the games.

Almonitor has a brief history of when most countries in the Middle East and North Africa began to allow women to compete from Iran to Bahrain. The last of the region’s hold outs included:

…Kuwait (which sent its first female athlete in 2004), Oman (2008), UAE (2008), and of course Qatar and Saudi Arabia (both 2012).  The participation of women from the latter two countries—as well as from Brunei—marks the first time that every country has sent a woman to compete in the Olympics.  Qatar is sending four women to participate in four events: athletics, shooting, swimming, and table tennis.

Of the two women that Saudi Arabia sent, Wujdan Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar, Shahrkhani was told last week she couldn’t compete in judo wearing a hijab. But the International Olympic and the International Federation of Judo came to a compromise with the Saudi National Olympic Committee for an acceptable version of the head scarf so that she could compete. Top women’s judo players backed the decision saying that it might impact her own performance, but they can see nothing wrong with letting Shahrkhani compete with it on.

Which is great–whether you agree with veiling or not, after pushing Saudi Arabia to include women in the Olympics and then this young woman qualified and made it to London–she should be able to compete. If only those that make legislation concerning women’s bodies were this willing to compromise!

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    This was just a publicity stunt by Saudi Arabia to prevent their male athletes from being banned. Unfortunately, she did NOT qualify. Shahrkhani, unlike the rest of the judo Olympians, only has a blue belt and she’s never even been to any competitions.

    The other Saudi woman was born and raised in the United States and holds dual citizenship because her father is a Saudi. She ran competitively in the U.S. but hasn’t since she began college this year. She wasn’t qualified either, and they are both competing by special IOC invitation only.

    Worst of all, nothing will likely change for female athletes in Saudi Arabia just because they went to the Olympics. Women still aren’t allowed to join sports clubs or go to competitions.

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