April 12, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4655

Saudi Women Overcome Social and Official Obstacles in Order to Be Able to Play Basketball

April 12, 2012
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4655

Following are excerpts from an Al-Jazeera Network report on women's basketball in Saudi Arabia, which aired on March 13, 2012:


Reporter: "Despite the social obstacles facing Saudi girls who practice sports, some Saudi health clubs have begun to support sports activities for women.

"Young girls practicing sports is an unusual sight in Saudi Arabia, where the aspirations of the players in the Jeddah United Basketball Club boil down to playing basketball without fearing social disapproval. Sports facilities for women in the Saudi Kingdom are under harsh regulations. These facilities are officially called 'health centers,' and are supervised by the Health Ministry."

Jeddah United coach Lina Al-Ma'ina: "Sports are very important for women. The statistics of the Health Ministry and the WHO show that diseases like obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart problems cost the Ministry of Health 19 billion rials annually."

Reporter: "Women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to practice sports in private schools, but they are not permitted to establish sports teams or to participate in any competition. This may be the obstacle facing the Jeddah United women's basketball team."

Jeddah United player Anhar Al-'Abdali: "Our problem is the social obstacles. Instead of viewing sports as something permitted by religion, people just say: 'Why did she leave home? Why is she practicing sports? Next thing she will go swimming…' As long as she wears the hijab, does not violate the Islamic religion, exposes no body parts, and covers her hair – what's the problem with her practicing sports within the framework of Islam?"

Reporter: "The 200 players of Jeddah United train in a special court, surrounded by a 5-meter wall. There are signs that the authorities may allow women to participate in international tournaments, and may ease its restrictions on women's sports." […]

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