Four female Saudi athletes have been approved by the Saudi Olympic Committee to compete as part of the conservative Gulf kingdom’s team at the Rio Olympics. Sara Al-Attar, Lubna Al-Omair, Cariman Abu Al-Jadail and Wujud Fahmi, is the single second group of women Olympians to represent Saudi Arabia, where women are prohibited from driving and are kept under control by the male guardianship system.
But on the other hand, the remarkable decision was complicated by the kingdom’s strenuous gender politics, as only the seven men were officially announced by the Olympic team to compete.
The announcements of the names of the male and female team members were made distinctly because of the sensitivities regarding gender segregation and women’s athletics in Saudi Arabia, informed Saudi Olympic Committee Chief Executive Hosam Alqurashi. The four women will be given wildcard entries so they can compete without meeting formal qualification standards.
Saudi Arabia had entered two women under a similar arrangement for the 2012 Olympics in London. It was an emblematic first for the Islamic nation which practices stringent gender rules.
Attar had a long experience in the London games. In London, 800metres were ran by her. She will be joined in Rio by another runner, Abu Al-Jadail, who will run in the 100 metres. Fencing and under-52 kg judo event will be taken part in by Omair and Fahmi respectively.
Women in Saudi Arabia face serious obstacles to practice sport. Head-to-toe garments in public are worn by them and it is compulsory. Stringent rules on gender segregation must be observed by them and permission from a male guardian to travel, study or marry must be obtained. Women’s gyms are not presently eligible for licences, making them inadequate in the kingdom. Recently a package of economic reforms has been announced by Saudi Arabia to set out the licensing of womena��s a�?sport hallsa�?. It is a goal to be achieved by 2020.