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!