Saudi Arabia: Education Minister says No to sports for girls

Opposing statements by deputy, debate is open

03 March, 15:58

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    (ANSAmed) - Rome, March 3 - No sporting activities for girls in public schools in Saudi Arabia. Azzam Al-Dakhil, Saudi Education Minister disappointed both country and world expectations, who were awaiting an announcement to the contrary.

    On the sidelines of a meeting with his Welfare Minister colleague, Al-Dakhil responded "no" to reporters asking if he would introduce an hour of gymnastics in women's institutions.

    In theory, the prohibition that fully banned sports from Saudi girls' schools was eliminated in 2013. In May of that year, the Saudi government declared via its official news agency that girls registered at private institutions could take part in gymnastics classes, provided they wore clothes "compliant to decency" and were supervised by a female instructor in accordance to the strict laws governing education in the kingdom.

    The announcement was welcomed as a step forward, but activists and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, refuted it as insufficient.

    "All Saudi girls and women should be able to enjoy social benefits, education and health, arising from the playing of a sport", Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch Director of Global Initiatives said at the time, adding, "If the Saudi government can break this barrier in private schools, you can't see why it can not also be done in the public schools".

    But today this and many other similar appeals have not produced the desired results. However, the debate is open, as shown last month as well, according to which the Women's Education Deputy Minister of Education who said that the Ministry would is considering the possibility of introducing an hour of sports activity in public schools and the formation of ad hoc teachers.

    Statements to the contrary made Monday by the Minister's blunt denial but show that within the government, the question is currently the subject of serious reflection, which is offset by two fronts, one more liberal and the other super conservative. Last year, even the Shura Council, a consultative body of the government, asked the ministry to evaluate incorporating gymnastics into the programs of state institutions. Things could change shortly. In Other encouraging signs are the opening of the country's first female sports in June at Khobar, and the participation Saudi female athletes for the first time in the 2012 Olympics.

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