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Saudi Women Win Right to Form Sports Clubs
March 31, 2013

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Women's sports clubs can go ahead in Saudi Arabia, in a further sign of growing rights for women in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The decision is significant given that Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia warn against the dangers of women exercising at all. Women's exercise facilities, gyms among them, have previously been licensed as "health centers" by the Saudi Health Ministry.

The decision follows on from the first-ever appearance by Saudi women athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sarah Attar ran the 800-meter dash, and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani competed in judoka.

King Abdullah in January appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, which advises the Saudi government on future legislation.

The increase in opportunities in the sports field did not transfer to other areas of Saudi society: Women must still have permission of a male guardian (husband, father, brother) to marry, work, travel, or even open a bank account.

Saudi King Abdullah has been vocal about creating more opportunities for women to receive treatment equal to what men receive. Saudi women have become slightly more vocal in recent times, including recently publicized attempts to avoid being arrested for driving. One of the kingdom's major innovations took place in the 1960s, when they-King Faisal extended the education system to include girls as well as boys. Today, female graduates outnumber males.

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