Saudi women enter stadiums for first time

14 January, 2018, 00:42 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Fans watch a match at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia has always been one of the world's most restrictive places for women, where a combination of religion, social custom and government regulation has dictated what they wear and barred them from driving, holding a range of jobs and traveling as they wish.

Women could attend the match after strict gender segregation was eased by authority in October past year.

Around 7,500 seats in the 62,000-seat King Abdullah Stadium were made available to women and families, according to Saudi sports authorities. Women will also attend a game today in the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, as well as a game on Thursday in the city of Dammam.

At the Jiddah stadium Friday, young Saudi women wearing bright orange vests over their abayas were deployed to help with the female crowds.

"As we speak; Saudi women fans are entering soccer stadiums!"

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According to the Saudi Gazette, Al-Ahli trounced Al-Batin 5-0 in the Premier League match. "Ittihad fans, male and female, are the support of this club, and success is not complete without them coming together to serve this historic entity", the club tweeted. The women however had to enter through designated turnstiles for women and families.

"I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change".

Friday's match was the first in a series that will be open to women: a second is due to take place on Saturday and a third on January 18.

While many welcomed the decision to allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.

Some people used the hashtag online to write that women should stay at home to focus on children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium packed with males.

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Saudi security forces have rounded up dozens of members of the political and business elite, holding them in Riyadh's opulent Ritz Carlton hotel on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Despite the breakthrough, there are still a host of basic human rights denied to women without the permission of a man, including applying for a passport, travelling overseas, and getting married.

Set to inherit a country where more than half the population is under 25 years old and hungry for change, the young crown prince has looked to boost his popularity by curbing almost four decades of deeply entrenched ultraconservative influence. The company plans to open more automobiles showrooms for women in the oil-rich kingdom.

The country's large, new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.

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