Saudi Women Can Compete In Olympics, But Fear Backlash
Saudi women are allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time this summer, and the country's sports chief said that they "must respect the ultra-conservative kingdom's rules," according to the AFP. Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said that all women competitors "must dress modestly, be accompanied by a male guardian and not mix with men during the Games." He said the women athletes may only take part if they are "wearing suitable clothing that complies with sharia" (Islamic law) and "the athlete's guardian agrees and attends with her." Nawaf said regarding previous Games, "We had no women athletes...But now there are many Saudi female athletes who have expressed to the IOC and international unions their desire to participate" (AFP, 7/2). The AP wrote women athletes from the kingdom are "worried about a backlash at home." Saudi Arabia, "under pressure" from the IOC, will allow women who qualify to compete at the London Games. Women who play soccer and basketball in underground leagues around Saudi Arabia "support those efforts," yet they also fear the hardline Muslim leaders will punish them for being pressured by the West and will crack down on women's clandestine activities" after the Games end. Captain of a female soccer team in Saudi capital Riyadh, Rawh Abdullah said, "I am afraid of their reaction, if we push too hard" (AP, 7/2).