London: The Olympic Games 2012 have kicked off in the United Kingdom capital, London, in style and two Saudi women are participating in the Olympics first time ever but without the support and recognition from their government as it strictly follows the Islamic rules and is considered a highly conservative Islamic kingdom.
The two Saudi athletes are not representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Olympics as they are participating under a “universality” clause that allows athletes without qualifying times to participate “for reasons of equality” after their monarchy refused them state’s recognition.
Wujdan Sharkhani, the Saudi judoka, has been banned from wearing the hijab, head scarf, when she competes in the Olympic Games and the other athlete is Sarah Attar, they both are not allowed to take trophies their home in case they win any position in their respective games.
Although Saudi Arabia has stringent rules for female sports, the two should consider themselves the luckiest athletes in the biggest games event of the world as back in their homeland, there are millions of Saudi women and girls who are effectively banned from practicing sports inside the Kingdom. Women are also not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia even though there exists no law restricting them to do so.
One of the athletes described her life experiences in the Arab world as saying, “I grew up in the Arab world with two older sisters, both of whom participated in sports beginning as little girls. My oldest sister played tennis and ran cross-country competitively. My other sister, Luma, grew up playing soccer competitively and would go on to help found the first women's soccer team at one of the Arab world's premier universities, the American University of Beirut.”
“My Arab mother raised me to respect both women and men as equal. It is one thing to segment your society and prevent gender-mixing, but to prevent women from exercising and participating in team sports in 2012 and to justify it with the importance of adhering to Sharia law, obtaining a male family member's approval and dressing modestly is insulting to women, Islam and the Olympics,” she added.
The Sports Ministry in Saudi Arabia had denied a request by private citizens to hold a women's Ramadan sports tournament that would have included basketball, volleyball and football.
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia reluctantly ended its status as the last Olympics nation to refuse to send women athletes to compete just before two weeks from starting of the games.
Saudi Arabia has now become the only country in the world which prevents its girls from taking part in sports in government schools. On the other hand, Qatar allowed its women to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time this year and the state is also building a high performance training center aimed at involving women in sports. Qatar also developed a Women's Sport Committee for over a decade.
Saudi Arabia is the lone country in the world which restricts women’s full participation in the society by stopping them from playing sports, not providing any state sports infrastructure for women and marginalizing them from participating in public life.