Saudi Arabia allows women to enter national stadium for 1st time

Saudi women sit in a stadium for the first time to attend an event in the capital Riyadh on September 23, 2017 commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom. The presence of women at the King Fahd stadium marks a departure from previous celebrations in the Gulf kingdom where they are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on public segregation of the sexes. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter its national stadium on Saturday evening, as it is ramping up the reforms to some of its most stringent religious laws. The kingdom is celebrating its 87th anniversary with a series of concerts and performances designed to give a “boost” to national pride and general quality of life for its citizens. On Saturday, the government opened up King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to allow women to co-mingle with men for the first time. Spectators who showed up were treated to an operetta. The government is organizing these festivities as part of its “Vision 2030” program, which is looking to diversify the country’s economy and give some more freedom to its sheltered citizens. Some religious leaders however have criticized the efforts to invest in and focus on sports and entertainment, as promoting parts of the national identity that are non-religious. While the occasion of allowing women to be spectators at King Fahd Stadium for the first time is momentous and laudatory, it’s worth noting that those women who showed up at the stadium still had to find someone else to drive them there. Still, some women were impressed with the progress, even if they’re only baby steps.

In an interview with TRT World outside the stadium, Dania al-Dakhil said, “Thank God the country has opened up and we girls are able to celebrate, and attend festivities like this. Our feelings are very positive.”

Sultana, 25, told Reuters, “It is the first time I have come to the stadium and I feel like more of a Saudi citizen.” She had green and white flags painted on both cheeks and went into the stadium with several of her friends, also women. “Now I can go everywhere in my country. God willing,” she added, “tomorrow women will be permitted bigger and better things like driving and travel.” For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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