Women’s Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia Just Scored a Major Goal for Equality
But there is still work to be done.
Wearing abayas and other Islamic coverings, Saudi women also donned green scarves in support of their hometown soccer team Al-Ahli as they filed into the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to watch a match against Al-Batin on Friday, BBC reports.
These spectators were among the first women to legally attend soccer matches in three cities countrywide after Saudi Arabia made it legal for them to go to soccer games last October.
The decision to allow women to attend sports matches comes in the wake of several high-profile decrees from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, making it legal for women to drive, work, and study without male permission, and compete in the Olympics.
“This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future,” one soccer fan from the town of Jeddah, which also plans to welcome women into its stadium Friday, told the Guardian. “I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change.”
LIVE: Crowds arriving at #Jeddah’s Al-Jowhara stadium to watch local team #Ahli take on #Batin as women allowed to attend football match in #SaudiArabia for the first time. https://t.co/Bl5Y8uKsCs— Arab News (@Arab_News) January 12, 2018
(Arab News photos by Mohammed Manei) pic.twitter.com/LwpWZeFjfC
Women who attend soccer matches won’t be allowed to watch from the same vantage point as the men, however. Instead they will be placed in a “family section,” according to the New York Post.
Double standards continue to exist for women in many walks of life in Saudi Arabia. According to a report in the BBC, women are still prevented from applying for a passport, opening a bank account, and getting an elective surgery without male permission.
But the latest news out of Saudi Arabia shows just how far the country has come in recent months and years.
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LIVE: A woman walks into Jeddah’s Al-Jowhara stadium to watch local team Ahli take on Batin which will be the first time women will be attending a #football match in #Saudi Arabia after a ban was lifted. https://t.co/jG9ZOiCWWO (Al-Ekhabriya photo) pic.twitter.com/WQq22WNZB0— Arab News (@Arab_News) January 12, 2018
Despite the challenges ahead, another spectator was most concerned with enjoying the historic day.
“Today, things have changed,” Noura Bakharji told AFP. “It's a day of happiness and joy."