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Saudi Arabia: Women spectators not allowed in stadiums
JEDDAH, (Arab News): An official at the Saudi Youth Welfare Presidency has denied media reports that it had allowed women to enter playgrounds and watch matches.
The presidency has so far not issued any orders permitting women to enter a stadium and watch matches, according to Ahmad Rawzi, director of the presidency’s Jeddah office.
“If there was any formal order allowing women to enter playgrounds, it would have been announced officially by the presidency authorities,” he said.
Rawzi was reacting to reports that women were permitted to watch the Asian Men's Handball Championship, which is being held in Jeddah.
Speaking to Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, Rawzi said those women who were present to watch the matches were women reporters from some local daily newspapers. He noted that women reporters usually attend all such occasions.
One of the women who attended the event said: “Their presence was extremely symbolic, but this is an attendance anyway.”
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was happy that for the first time the TV announcer welcomed women. She recalled he began his live transmission of the match by saying “Ladies and gentlemen.”
The first match was between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both teams played well, but the Saudi team won.
Supervisor of the championship, Turki Al-Khilaiwi, who is the deputy chairman of the Saudi Handball Federation, expressed happiness that Saudi women were there to cheer their team. “This is progress in itself and it is an indication that Saudi women may be allowed to attend all matches later,” he said.
Al-Khilaiwi attributed the small attendance to the fact that handball was not popular like soccer and that the opening day coincided with a semi-final soccer match between Al-Ahli and Al-Ittifaq in the King’s Cup.
Al-Khilaiwi accused the media of not giving enough publicity to the championship and said this was another reason for the low attendance.
He also said the Jeddah municipality did not honor its promise of supporting the championship. “We did put up ads at the airport and in shopping malls but the result was not encouraging,” he said.
Samar Ahmed, a Saudi woman, said this was the first time for her to attend any match at the stadium. “The experience was sensational and I enjoyed my time.”
She underlined the importance of women attending sports events and said sports are equally important to men and women. “What many people may not know is that Saudi women know a lot about all sports and they care for sports activities for health and beauty effects,” she said.
Nura Omar expressed a different view. “It is not correct or acceptable for women to attend sports events,” she said, adding that women should not be concerned with sports activities. Omar said she was against gender mixing and as such she would never be in any stadium.
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