Saudis say it's OK for girls in private schools to play sports
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabian girls will be allowed to play sports in private schools for the first time, according to a decision announced on Saturday, the latest in a series of incremental changes aimed at slowly increasing women's rights in the ultraconservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia's official press agency, SPA, reported that private girls' schools are now allowed to hold sports activities in accordance with the rules of Shariah, or Islamic law. Students must adhere to “decent dress” codes and Saudi women teachers will be given priority in supervising the activities, according to the Education Ministry's requirements.
The decision makes sports once again a stage for the push to improve women's rights, nearly a year after two Saudi female athletes made an unprecedented appearance at the Olympics.
“It's about time,” said Aziza Youssef, a professor at King Saud University. “Everything is being held back in Saudi Arabia as far as women's rights.”
Youssef said she sees the decision to allow sports for girls in private schools as part of package of wider reforms targeting women, but that continued restrictions on sports is a discrimination that negatively impacts women's health.
Education Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Dakhini was quoted in SPA saying that the decision to allow girls to play sports in private schools “stems from the teachings of our religion, which allow women such activities in accordance with Shariah.”
The government has quietly tolerated physical education in some private schools, but there was no set curriculum.
The decision, which orders private girls' schools to provide appropriate places and equipment for sports, is a monumental step that will likely soon affect public schools and universities, which are also gender segregated, Youssef said.
The Saudi government plays a role in private schools, providing textbooks and directors.
Deputy Minister of Education for Women's Affairs Nora al-Fayez was quoted as saying recently that there is a plan in place to expand sports education in public schools. It remains unclear whether girls would have access to the same level of physical education as boys.
Sports for women in Saudi Arabia have been largely a pastime of elites who can afford expensive health club memberships. They are often attached to hospitals since women's gyms were closed in 2010 on grounds they were unlicensed.
Saudi Arabia allowed two female athletes to compete in last summer's Olympics only after the International Olympics Committee had put intense pressure on the kingdom to end its practice of sending only male teams to the games. Their participation was not shown on Saudi TV stations.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Colombia drug lord’s most loyal assassin courts Hollywood upon early release from prison
- Right-wingers say Israel failed ‘so long as Hamas exists’
- Russian help implicit in new separatist push into Ukraine
- ‘Holocaust T-shirt’ for kids discontinued in Spain
- IMF chief investigated for negligence in 2008 case in France
- Kenyan rangers killing poachers, rights group say
- Coast Guard fires in defense on Iran boat
- Tropical disturbance heads toward Caribbean
- China rejects U.S. criticism over jet encounter
- Afghan candidate threatens boycott of election audit
- No clear victor in Hamas-Israel conflict