Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time

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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Arab News photo by Mohammed Manei)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Twitter)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AN photo by Mohammed Manei)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AN photo by Mohammed Manei)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (AN photo by Mohammed Manei)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: Alekhbariya TV)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: @SaudiProject)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: @SaudiProject)
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time. (Courtesy: @SaudiProject)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Saudi Arabia stadiums welcome female football fans for first time

RIYADH: Female fans were allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
The first match that women attended was the Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin on Friday Jan. 12.
The Saudi Arabian government announced the lifting of the ban late last year and as a result, women now be able to enjoyed Saudi Professional League matches. The government directive said women would also be able to attend a second match on the following day (Jan. 13) and a third one on January 18.

Women from across the vast Gulf kingdom may be able to take advantage of this new freedom as the first match will be held in the capital Riyadh, the second in Jeddah on the Red Sea and the third in the eastern city of Dammam.
The move is Saudi Arabia's first social reform planned for this year granting women greater rights.
To prepare for the change, the kingdom has designated "family sections" in the stands for women, separated by barriers from the male-only crowd. The stadiums have also been fitted with female prayer areas, restrooms and smoking areas, as well as separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators.
The General Sports Authority is preparing the surrounding squares in the King Abdullah Sports City (Al-Jawhara) with food trucks and a number of sporting and social events to create a distinctive social environment before the matches.
A host of events taking place whilst families enter the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

The game was scheduled to kick off at 8:00pm, but enthusiasm for the historic encounter began well before the kick-off.
Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, said she was proud and looking forward to the match.
"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future. I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change," she told AFP.

Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, called Friday a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes."
I am proud and extremely happy for this development," she said.

Noura Bakharji, another Jeddah resident, said she always felt bitter when her brothers came back from stadiums to tell her about the excitement of watching football matches in person.
"I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums... I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" she told AFP. "Today, things have changed. It's a day of happiness and joy."
Hours before the game, Saudi clubs were encouraging women to attend through tweets on social media.
Some clubs are offering special abayas — traditional head-to-toe robes for Saudi women — in team colours.
State-owned Saudi Airlines announced prizes of free tickets for five families who want to travel between cities to watch games.

Arab News spoke to local Al-Ahli supporter Rayan, who said: “Our whole family supports Al-Ittihad except me and my sister — we support Al-Ahli. We always try to watch the games together. I always feel bad leaving to watch some games in the stadium knowing that she can’t experience this special atmosphere. I always said ‘one day’ and now this is that day. It makes me so happy and proud that she can finally experience the excitement and drama of watching these games firsthand.”
Sara, a recent Saudi graduate from Northeastern University, stated the event was one of the first signs of increased female participation in sporting events and activities. “This is wonderful for us (Saudi) women, and I am sure there is more to come. A diverse and inclusive society will only serve as the base to positive progression for Vision 2030.”
Another Saudi woman that attended the game lent her voice. Lana, a fitness instructor based in Jeddah, said: “This was my first football match that I’ve ever attended, and It has been such a fun experience. I’ll always remember tonight. I salute our government for granting us these rights, and I can’t wait to attend again next week.”


How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

Updated 45 min 21 sec ago

How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

  • When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to bring back moderate Islam, he referenced a time before the developments of 1979 halted the Kingdom’s progress

Saudi Arabia was on a roll in the 1970s, enjoying the social and cultural developments that had begun in the previous two decades, and buoyed by the rising price of oil and the Kingdom’s first Development Plan.

But 1979 changed everything. Saudi Arabia took a conservative turn, prompted by two events: the Iranian Revolution in February, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and the siege by religious extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.  As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 2017’s Future Investment Initiative: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions … And quite frankly, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas … We want to live a normal life, a life that translates our moderate religion, our good customs.”

And that’s what has happened. Under Vision 2030 and a flurry of life-altering developments – movies and concerts, greater freedom for women, fitness in schools, to name just a few – the Kingdom is on a trajectory back to the future.

 

THEN: 

1955 - Saudi Arabia’s first private school for girls, Dar Al-Hanan, is founded in Jeddah by Princess Effat, with the support of her husband, Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, amid a social outcry.

1960 - royal decree approves public education for girls; schools are established in Riyadh, Makkah and other cities.

1962 - The non-profit women’s organization, Al-Nahda, is established by Princess Effat and a number of prominent Saudi women.

1963 

  • The Council of Ministers approves a project to establish television in the Kingdom.
  • The Department of Youth Welfare (previously the Department of Sport) creates four federations: volleyball, basketball, athletic and cycling.

1965 - King Faisal approves the first national television broadcast, a reading of the Qur’an, amid protests from conservatives.

1960 - A royal decree approves public education for girls; schools are established in Riyadh, Makkah and other cities.

1962 - The non-profit women’s organization, Al-Nahda, is established by Princess Effat and a number of prominent Saudi women.

1963

  • The Council of Ministers approves a project to establish television in the Kingdom.
  • The Department of Youth Welfare (previously the Department of Sport) creates four federations: volleyball, basketball, athletic and cycling.

1965

  • King Faisal approves the first national television broadcast, a reading of the Qur’an, amid protests from conservatives.
  • The first TV broadcast in Saudi Arabia is launched from the US Consulate in Dhahran; “The Eye of the Desert” is broadcast in English and only to the Dhahran area. 

1957

  • The Kingdom’s first institute of higher education, King Saud University, is opened in Riyadh.
  • The launch of Aramco TV, with a wider broadcasting range that reaches Al-Hofuf and other areas across the Gulf. Broadcasts are in both Arabic and English.

1979

 

IRANIAN REVOLUTION

January 22 - Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife leave Tehran.

February 1 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile in France.

February 11 - Khomeini officially assumes power when troops loyal to the shah surrender.

February 16 - Iran’s revolutionary authorities start executions of leading supporters of the shah, including four top generals.

November 4 - US embassy in Tehran stormed by Iranian students who take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the shah.


SIEGE OF MAKKAH’S GRAND MOSQUE

November 20 - A well-organized group led by Saudi militant Juhayman Al-Otaibi storms the Grand Mosque with weapons smuggled in coffins and vehicles using members pretending to be there to pray. Al-Otaibi is a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasiba (Salafi Group that Commands Right and Forbids Wrong), which is angered by Western social influence, women’s presence in the Saudi workforce, TV and other issues. Worshippers are prevented from leaving after the announcement of a takeover over a microphone. Hostages are forced to pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Mohammed bin Abduallah Al-Qahtani, Al-Otaibi and their followers.

December 4 - The siege lasts for two weeks and ends after an intervention by Saudi special forces and their allies, leaving hundreds dead, including Saudi officers, soldiers and civilians as well as Al-Qahtani and his followers. Al-Otaibi is arrested and executed on Jan. 9, 1980.


 

NOW

2016

  • Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveils Vision 2030, a road map for Saudi Arabia’s future.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a new law restricting the religious police from questioning, pursuing or arresting violators; they must instead report them to the police or anti-narcotics officers.
  • Princess Reema bint Bandar is appointed vice president for women’s affairs at the General Sports Authwority.
  • Kariman Abuljadayel is the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100-meter event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
  • The General Authority for Entertainment and the General Sports Authority are established by royal decree.

 

2017

  • King Salman appoints Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince ofSaudi Arabia.
  • The Saudi Stock Exchange appoints a woman, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as chairperson for the first time.
  • In one of the first public music performances in many years, Mohammed Abdo performs for a men-only audience in Jeddah.
  • Giga-projects are launched: NEOM, a $500-billion megacity in theTabuk region, and the RedSea tourism project (right).
  • Saudi state schools announce that they will offer physical education classes for female students.
  • At the inaugural Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledges a return to moderate Islam.

 

2018

  • Female fans are allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia; the match was Al-Ahli vs. Al-Batin in Jeddah on Jan. 12.
  • Ending a 35-year ban on cinemas, the first commercial movie theater opens in Riyadh with a screening of “Black Panther” on April 18.
  • A ban on Saudi women driving is lifted on June 24.
  • An anti-harassment law, approved by the Shoura Council, receives praise from around the world.
  • King Salman launches plans for Qiddiya, expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city.
  • The Culture Ministry, headed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, is established (right).
  • Al-Ahsa Oasis is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Weam Al-Dakheel becomes the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV.
  • Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas are among the first international performers at the Formula E in Riyadh, for which the first trial tourist visas are granted.
  • The WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, beginning a 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority.

 

2019

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launches a mega tourism project in AlUla which will include a resort designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve dubbed Sharaan.
  • Lubna Al-Olayan becomes the first Saudi chairwoman to run a Saudi bank, a merger between Alawwal and Saudi British Bank.
  • Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar (top center), is appointed to Washington.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a “Privileged Iqama residency permit,” which will allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, offered to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds.
  • By royal decree, Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
  • A lineup of superstars perform in concerts across the Kingdom: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and 50 Cent in Jeddah; Andrea Bocelli in AlUla (below); Pitbull and Akon in the Eastern Province.
  • High-profile sports events include the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan; Fight Night between world boxing champion Amir Khan (left)and Billy Dib; and the largest Battle Royale in WWE history.