Saudi Arabia’s first female Olympian risks ostracism to compete

05 Aug

A Saudi woman competes at the Olympics for the first time ever. She did this in the face of controversy over showing her body (not wearing a burkha) in front of men. She didn’t have a black belt and had never done judo in public – ever – but lasted over a minute against one of the world’s top judokas. Shahrkhani challenged the expectations of Muslim conservatives and westerners alike by competing and also covering her hair while she fought. Because of the stress of the controversy, her first ever competition and only having a blue belt (possibly due to lack of facilities for women in Saudi Arabia), Shahrkhani was disadvantaged but she didn’t let these obstacles get in the way. I just am totally amazed by all of this – I’ve seen people get really nervous competing against other schools/universities or even in competitions within their own sports club – imagine your first competition being the Olympics and you’re on TV to the entire world without your face covered! And knowing you will be hated when you go back home and people thinking you’re going to hell and are a complete disgrace. I guess women don’t have any excuses for being intimidated to do martial arts anymore…



CAIRO — There was no way Alaa al-Mizyen, a 22-year-old Saudi investmentconsultant, was missing this Olympic match. While her family slept in late Friday morning, she alone was awake and glued to the TV.

It was, after all, her first ever opportunity to cheer a Saudi woman in the world’s biggest sporting event.

The participation of Saudi judo player Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani had raised the scorn of the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic clerics, who said she was dishonoring herself by fighting in front of men, including the male referee and judges. And the match Friday was a swift defeat for Shahrkhani: The teenager was thrown by her Puerto Rican opponent in just over a minute.

But for her supporters, it was an enduring, landmark victory.

Shahrkhani was taking a stand against culture and customs that have little to do with Islam but are used to…

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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Feminism, Media


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