New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 11:14 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

‘I Can’t Describe My Feelings’ – Saudi Women Finally Allowed Into Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women will be able to watch a professional football match in Saudi Arabia for the first time this month. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

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Iran: Women Required Wearing a Head Cover Even Under Surgery

Two Held Over Bid To Sell Off Kerala Woman to Islamic State After Forced Conversion

Yazidi Children Rescued From IS Getting Psychological Help

Muslim Intelligentsia, Women's Groups Say Triple Talaq Bill ‘Politically Motivated’

Justice for Zainab: Protesters in Kasur Turn On PML-N Lawmakers

Taliban IED Kills 4-Year-Old Girl in East of Afghanistan

First Women-Only Car Showroom Opens in Saudi Arabia

How the Gym Culture Is Taking Hold among Saudi Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/‘i-can’t-describe-my-feelings’-–-saudi-women-finally-allowed-into-games/d/113911

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‘I Can’t Describe My Feelings’ – Saudi Women Finally Allowed Into Games

John Duerden: Thu 11 Jan ‘18

Forget Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, the biggest move in the world of football this month will come on Friday as women step inside a Saudi Arabian stadium to watch a professional game from the stands for the first time in the country’s history. Al-Ahli will be trying to close the gap at the top of the Saudi Premier League behind Al-Hilal with a win over Al-Batin but more attention will be paid to the make up of those in the crowd.

Until now, in the country ranked by the World Economic Forum in 2016 as 141th out of 144 on gender parity, women have been forced to watch the beautiful game on television. Those caught inside a stadium, as one woman was in December 2014, were arrested. The Saudi government announced last October that the long-standing ban was coming to an end, in at least in three stadiums to start with. Arenas in Riyadh, Jeddah and the eastern city of Dammam will have special sections for female fans.

Ghadah Grrah could not watch her favourite team Al-Hilal even in the final of the 2014 Asian Champions League though female fans of Western Sydney Wanderers were allowed inside the King Fahd Stadium. Her wait, however, is finally coming to an end. “It can be hard to have to watch your team only on television especially when it is a big game or a final but now my wish is coming true,” the 22 year-old tells the Guardian.

The fact that it is a huge game against Al-Ittihad of Jeddah, national and continental rivals, just adds to the anticipation. “I don’t know how to describe my feelings to you,” she adds. “I have been waiting since I became a fan in 2010 and it is such a pleasure to go to a match for my favourite team in Saudi Arabia. I am very excited.”

Saudi Arabia is an Asian powerhouse with numerous continental titles at club and country level. The national team reached the second round in a first World Cup appearance in 1994 and celebrated qualification for their fifth World Cup in September. Their coach, Bert van Marwijk, was quickly released and his successor, Edgardo Bauza from Argentina, was dismissed two months later to be replaced by his compatriot Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Decision making by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation may be erratic but the government’s call to allow women into stadiums is anything but, according to the Jeddah-based journalist Aseel Bashraheel. “There are many female fans in Saudi Arabia,” she says. “Many of my female friends and family are huge football enthusiasts. I’ve been to my share of cafes in Jeddah on many game nights and I’ve witnessed all the ladies around me watching the games animatedly and cheering loudly with their husbands and kids. I’ve seen my aunt and uncle cheer for opposing teams and then bicker and tease each other when their teams win or lose.”

It is expected there will be an major influx of women for the opening games before a lull, with numbers hopefully gradually increasing over the months and years to come. “There will be a lot of women attending games as they have been waiting for this for many years,” says Khalin Ghadin of the Saudi Premier League, although the official acknowledges there has been some negative reaction on social media. “There was some criticism. Any decision brings criticism but most people support it.”

Bashraheel knows it will take time for more conservative elements in the country to be won over. “There were those who welcomed the decision and expressed their eagerness to attend a family-oriented football match. And then there were others who believed the decision goes against Saudi’s culture and tradition.” That culture may be not quite as immovable as previously thought. “Society is changing in Saudi Arabia but I also believe there’s always room for more change.”

For Grrah it is a good start and the Al-Hilal fan believes that Saudi soccer was never solely a male preserve anyway. “Saudi women have long been involved in the culture of football, this was never applicable to men only. If a woman is at the stadium with her husband, father or brother, the players will be more excited. We have been waiting for a long time and this is a new feeling for everyone. I think it will be a wonderful event.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jan/11/saudi-arabia-women-professional-stadium-fan-al-hilal

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Iran: Women Required Wearing a Head Cover Even Under Surgery

12 January 2018

According to a report published by one of the Iranian state-run websites, women have to cover their heads even under surgery in some of the hospitals in the capital.

“Can’t enter the hospital’s emergency room without the chador,” says a middle-aged woman standing at the hospital’s entrance to prevent women from entering if they are wearing manteaux.

Some of the clinics and hospitals in Tehran require women to wear the chador before walking in. Baghyatollah Hospital is one of these centers.

The patients who are not feeling well and need to rely on others to walk must also observe this requirement.

The woman guarding the entrance says, “Those who come on their own feet, we make them remove their make-up. Here, we have everything. Make-up remover, nail-polish remover, napkins, ... Those who have graft acrylic nails, must wear gloves.”

The chador – head-to-toe black veil—is not only compulsory in the hospital’s clinic but also inside the hospital and even in the emergency room. The female patient’s gown for the operation room also includes a maghna’eh (head cover which is tighter than a scarf).

Sara whose mother has recently had an operation in this hospital says, “My mother did not feel well and was very anxious about her operation. My mother had breast cancer and the doctors would see her body. So, I don’t know what was that head cover good for.”

“We came to this hospital because of our insurance contract but women and their companies are very much distressed in this hospital,” added Sara. (The state-run Fararu.com, January 11, 2018)

http://www.women.ncr-iran.org/iran-women-news/4668-iran-women-required-to-wear-a-head-cover-even-under-surgery

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Two Held Over Bid To Sell Off Kerala Woman to Islamic State after Forced Conversion

January 11, 2018

Two persons have been arrested on charges of helping a Muslim man “forcibly” convert a Kerala woman and attempting to take her to Syria to be sold off to Islamic State terrorists. Fayaz and Siyad, both natives of North Paravur near Kochi, were arrested on Wednesday following investigations based on a complaint by the 25-year-old woman, who was rescued from Saudi Arabia and brought home last year by her family.

The two are friends of Muhammad Riyaz from Thalassery in Kannur district, the prime accused in the case. “They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” Ernakulam Rural SP A V George said, adding a hunt is on to arrest eight more accused, including Riyas, in the case. He said the police have begun a probe into their alleged link with the Islamic State terrorists.

George said both Fayaz and Siyad were arrested based on the woman’s complaint that she was allegedly tortured by them in a house in North Paravoor before Riyaz took her abroad. The woman had alleged that Riyaz pretended to be in love with her when she was studying in Bengaluru in 2014 and forced her to convert to Islam and married her.

The woman from Pathanamthitta was brought up in Gujarat. She had moved the Kerala High Court last year seeking an NIA probe against Riyaz for attempting to take her to Syria from Saudi Arabia and sell her to the Islamic State terrorists as a sex slave. She has also alleged that her marriage was registered using forged documents.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/two-held-over-bid-to-sell-off-kerala-woman-to-islamic-state-after-forced-conversion-5021064/

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Yazidi Children Rescued From IS Getting Psychological Help

January 11, 2018

Dozens of Yazidi children who have been rescued from the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria are now receiving counseling to cope with and recover from the trauma they experienced during their years in captivity.

At Qadiya refugee camp near the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's northern city of Duhok, more than 100 Yazidi boys and girls aged between 4 and 13, who were kidnapped by IS in August 2014, are getting assistance to recover from the psychological harm they sustained under IS control.

The children were smuggled out of IS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria in recent months.

Most of the boys were trained by IS to engage in militancy, while many girls were sexually abused.

Zahid Suhail, 12, is one of the boys who was indoctrinated with IS extremist ideology in Iraq and sent to Syria for military training when he was just 9 years old.

"I was first sent to a military camp in Tal Afar for three months and later transferred to a military camp in Mosul," Suhail told VOA.

"I received religious training on the Quran, creed, and the main obligations. They later arranged a test, which I passed," he added.

While in Mosul, Suhail said, he also was taught Arabic and was prevented from using his native Kurdish language. He is still unable to speak Kurdish. His family and psychiatrists are trying to help him to recover his native tongue.

After finishing his religious training, Suhail was sent to the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour, where he was trained for fighting.

"Someone called Abu Khatab al-Iraqi took me to Syria. They sent me to a group of [IS] special forces in a military camp near the airport of Deir el-Zour," Suhail said.

'Cubs of the caliphate'

Suhail told VOA that shortly after finishing his military training, he was made a member of a group of IS child recruits known as the "cubs of the caliphate."

There is no official data on how many children were schooled and trained by IS since 2014, but human rights organizations estimate the number to be in the thousands.

In Iraq, the government's counterterrorism program has listed about 2,000 children as having been potentially influenced or brainwashed by Islamic State ideology.

Many of those child recruits died while fighting on behalf of IS in the last year. An IS video released in February 2017 showed two teenage Yazidi brothers purportedly blowing up their explosives-laden vehicles in an attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul.

Psychologists at Qadiya refugee camp said Suhail was fortunate to have been smuggled out of Deir el-Zour, because IS fought a losing battle against the Syrian army and its allied forces last October.

Now their job is to help him overcome the mental stress and health effects caused by years of IS indoctrination.

"They brainwashed him for 3½ years and, in many ways, made him act exactly like one of them," Naeef Jardo, a psychiatrist at the camp, told VOA. "We are working hard to bring him back to normal."

Jardo is among several specialists at the camp who are working to help rehabilitate the children.

French organization Yahad In-Unum is funding the children's recovery and reintegration process.

In addition to psychological counseling, the camp provides several recreational activities and learning programs to help the children learn new skills.

Jardo said the younger children have shown a lot of improvement, while those older than 9 might need a longer period of treatment, particularly traumatized girls who were sexually abused.

One of the girls at the camp, Madeha Ibrahim, 13, said she was still in shock from the horrors she suffered at the hands of IS as a sex slave.

"Abu Usuf raped me and beat me a lot with a hose," she told VOA while recalling the story of her enslavement by an IS fighter in Mosul. "He tortured me a lot."

Ibrahim said she was later sold to another IS fighter of Turkish origin.

"The Turkish [IS member] grabbed my ponytail and hit my head on the wall three times until I became unconscious," she added.

'I offered to convert'

Evana Hassan, another 13-year-old girl at the camp, told VOA she experienced similar abuse from an IS fighter because she refused to convert to Islam.

"He told me, 'I will sell you.' I suffered a lot from being sold to different people. I told him, 'Don't sell me. I will convert to your religion.' "

Hassan said the IS fighter repeatedly raped her at age 12, claiming she had reached the age of sexual maturity.

"When I turned 12 years old, he told me, 'You have reached the age of marriage. I will marry you now,' " Hassan said.

The camp organizers said that while they would continue to care for the 108 rescued boys and girls, they were prepared to receive more children as they were found across Iraq and Syria.

Yazidi organizations say about 2,000 Yazidis, mostly women and children, remain missing even as IS has lost most of its enclaves in Iraq and Syria.

"We are continuously welcoming new survivors at our camp," Khalaf Alias of Yahad In-Unum told VOA. "We expect hundreds more children to be found."

Alias said it would most likely take years for the children to recover and that more international support would be needed to help the Yazidi community in Iraq.

"Those children have gone through a lot of suffering. They deserve more attention from everyone," Alias said.

https://www.voanews.com/a/yazidi-children-rescued-from-islamic-state-getting-psychological-help/4204528.html

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Muslim Intelligentsia, Women's Groups Say Triple Talaq Bill ‘Politically Motivated’

January 12, 2018

NEW DELHI — The triple talaq bill, unilaterally drafted and brought by the Narendra Modi government, is politically motivated, feel members of the Muslim intelligentsia across sectarian lines and schools of thought; however, they are happy the controversy has created awareness in the public mind about the evils of the practice.

Is the saffron party indeed serious about addressing the root issue of the social evil called instant divorce and does it really want it stopped, or is it indulging in political posturing? It is the latter, say an overwhelming majority of stakeholders, from "fundamentalists" to liberals, Islamic clerics and women rights activists.

They also think that the bill in its present form cannot stand judicial scrutiny.

"It's an atrocious piece of legislation which is against the constitution because it discriminates on the basis of religion," Irfan Ali Engineer, director, Center for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, told IANS.

Irfan Engineer, son of acclaimed reformist-writer and social activist Asghar Ali Engineer, and a petitioner in the Shayara Bano case, explained: "It is discriminatory on the ground that if a Muslim man divorces his wife in a particular way, he would be jailed. But if a man of other religion abandons his wife, there is no legal action against him."

He said there is "no doubt" the legislation is "politically motivated."

Jamat-e-Islami Hind General Secretary Mohammed Salim Engineer said he did not understand the objective of the legislation.

"If the said bill had held three talaqs as one, it would have made some sense. Which would mean that a divorce will not take place no matter how many times a man utters the word 'talaq' in one sitting, and which is in consonance with several schools of Islamic jurisprudence," he said.

All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat Chairman Navaid Hamid had a similar view: "This bill is clearly faulty. In many Muslim sects, talaq pronounced thrice is treated as only one talaq. But this bill would hold a person of any sect guilty no matter if as per his belief irrevocable talaq has not happened."

The government moved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill – which proposes a three-year jail term for a man pronouncing irrevocable triple talaq – in the Lok Sabha Dec. 28 last year and it passed the same day despite the opposition's pleas to send it to a parliamentary committee. However, the bill was stalled in the Rajya Sabha where the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies are in a minority. The government has said it is open to "suggestions" if these are "reasonable."

Yasmin of Awaz-e-Niswaan, a women rights collective and an intervener in the triple talaq case, said that she and other activists had welcomed the Supreme Court's Aug. 22, 2017, decision to ban the triple talaq but the legislation brought by the government serves no purpose other than "furthering the BJP's agenda."

"We are against criminalization of talaq. The Domestic Violence Act and the Section 498A of IPC are already in place to deal with any atrocities or violence against women, and which equally apply to Muslim women. So there is no need for a separate law... It looks like a conspiracy," Yasmin told IANS.

Other women's bodies such as Bebaak Collective and the All India Democratic Women's Association have publicly slammed the triple talaq legislation for its flaws and inherent contradictions.

Interestingly, the Muslim organizations that are against banning the triple talaq, activists and women’s organizations that wanted it banned and opposition parties in Parliament have all expressed concerns over the consequences of sending a man to jail for as long as three years.

Who will provide for the woman in her husband's absence? Shouldn't the government form a corpus for such women's financial assistance and pension? Will the marriage remain intact even after the husband is jailed purportedly on the complaint of the wife? Are women's rights safeguarded through this law in cases of other forms of divorce?

These are some of the questions raised by the critics of the bill and the political opposition inside Parliament. The government hardly attempted to assuage such tangible apprehensions and mostly resorted to an abstract emotional appeal that "the bill gives Muslim women their rights and dignity."

Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, who is opposed to instant divorce and wants it abolished, could not find a reason to justify the penal provision in the bill.

"In Shias, there no such thing as talaq-e-biddat. The penal provision is not right, but so is not talaq-e-biddat. Even our Sunni brothers say that this is sinful," he said.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the most vocal body in matters pertaining to Muslim Personal Laws, has already denounced the Modi government's attempt to "encroach through this bill upon the Muslims' fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution" and has termed the bill as uncalled for and unnecessary after the Supreme Court ruling that rendered triple talaq as null and void.

"In case your government considers it necessary to enact a law in this respect, consultations must be held with AIMPLB and such Muslim women organizations which are true representatives of Muslim women," the AIMPLB has said in a letter to Prime Minister Modi.

The plea highlights the general complaint – that nobody was consulted while drafting the bill. Let alone the hardline Muslim clerics, even the liberal opinions, including those of various women bodies, were not sought by the government.

People like Irfan Engineer feel that a law is required to address the issue, but it should be "comprehensive."

"We need a comprehensive legislation, one that safeguards the rights of women in case of divorce, but at the same time it should not make the divorce process cumbersome and unendingly long," he opined.

However, amid the heat of discussion on triple talaq, Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of the fortnightly Milli Gazette, sees something positive in the whole discourse.

"One benefit of this entire brouhaha has been that common people have got some awareness about the evil of triple talaq. Also, clerics have started accepting that triple talaq is wrong and it should be weeded out. In fact, all of us want this practice banished," Khan said.

He also advised Muslims to "not react" to and "ignore" the bill. "Because provoking Muslims to polarize the society precisely seems to be BJP's objective," he added.

http://www.indiawest.com/news/india/muslim-intelligentsia-women-s-groups-say-triple-talaq-bill-politically/article_244cef06-f709-11e7-9d45-d39d74c7528e.html

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Justice for Zainab: Protesters in Kasur turn on PML-N lawmakers

Afzal Ansari

January 12, 2018

KASUR: In continuance of the protests that erupted in Kasur a day earlier against the alleged police inaction following the rape and murder of a six-year-old child, a charged mob on Thursday broke into the homes of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers, MPA Naeem Safdar Ansari and MNA Waseem Akhtar, and ransacked rooms and burned cars, and set the latter’s outhouse ablaze.

Even though the protests began early in the morning at around 7am, the violence escalated shortly after the funeral prayers for two protesters, Muhammad Ali and Shoaib, who were killed by police gunfire the day before. Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi led the funeral prayers.

The protesters then returned to Shahbaz Khan Road and Steel Bagh Mor on Ferozepur Road and stepped up the agitation. As one highly charged mob made its way to MPA Ansari’s house, a police contingent attempted to control the situation by using tear-gas shells to disperse the mob. However, the protesters threw stones and bricks at the policemen, forcing them to retreat to Kashmir Chowk, around half a kilometre away from the MPA’s house.

Finding the police occupied elsewhere, the protesters broke into the outhouse of Mr Akhtar and dragged the furniture out on the street and set it ablaze. They then entered the premises and set fire to the building. The fire spread to neighbouring shops. Rescue-1122 official Muhammad Akbar said that the protesters did not allow fire fighters to extinguish the fire at the outhouse.

CM Shahbaz meets Zainab’s father who wants probe body head replaced; Tehreek-i-Labbaik chief leads funeral prayers

Rescue-1122 services remained suspended between 12pm and 9pm as most roads were blocked. The department had to excuse 12 emergency calls because of that.

Earlier in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the grieving family in Kasur between 4:20am and 4:30am, during which he offered Fateha for the departed soul.

Two hours prior to his arrival in Kasur (at around 2am), Punjab government spokesperson Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan, MPA Malik Ahmed Saeed, MNAs of the Ansari biradari, including Usman Ibrahim of Gujranwala and Akram Ansari of Faisalabad, visited Zainab’s family and placated them, before giving the CM a green signal to visit Kasur.

The Punjab cabinet on Thursday announced Rs10 million cash prize for anyone who could provide information that could lead the police to the man who had killed Zainab. The cabinet also decided to give Rs3m to the families of the two protesters killed by the police. They decided that a member of each family would be offered a government job.

On Thursday, all markets, schools, banks, pharmacies and the district bar remained on strike.

While the city’s traders had earlier announced that they would observe a complete shutter-down strike on Friday, Lahore commissioner Abdullah Sumbal, Rangers Brigadier Muhammad Asim, Sheikhupura RPO Zulifqar Hameed, Kasur DC Saira Omar, DBA president Malik Riaz Ahmed and other members of the peace committee met the traders and convinced them not to strike. They assured the traders that Rangers and the police would protect the lives and properties of traders.

A group of protesters near the DHQ Hospital stormed its premises after medical officers handed over the bodies of the two protesters over to their families after conducting an autopsy.

The enraged mob ransacked the emergency ward while hospital staffers locked the doors from inside. There was no police in sight; however, attendants at the hospital managed to convince the protesters to take their agitation outside the hospital premises.

A teenager protester talking to Dawn said that no one had given a call for protest but he would continue to agitate till the killer was arrested and made an example of. He said that agitating on the streets was the only way the people could get their rulers to listen to their plight.

Another young protester, who was busy stripping down burnt cars, said that the country’s politicians had looted the people’s wealth and purchased expensive vehicles, so, they were public property.

Talking to the media, Zainab’s father Muhammad Amin, an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Dr Tahirul Qadri, urged people to hold a peaceful protest and to not damage public or private property.

However, he expressed dissatisfaction with the nomination of the police officer heading the joint investigation team (JIT) and requested that he be replaced.

By Thursday night, the district administration imposed Section 144 in the city, outlawing the assembly of more than five people. Rangers and police took control of the city and started patrolling. They arrested 45 protesters and took them to an undisclosed location.

District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Medico Legal Officer Dr Quratulain Attique told Dawn.com on Thursday that the child’s post-mortem examination revealed that she had died from strangulation.

Findings in the autopsy suggest that she may have been sexually assaulted. Dr Attique said that this was the fourth such case she had seen in the last seven months she had been at the Kasur DHQ.

Police told Dawn that they had arrested scores of suspects in the rape and murder of the child and sent the samples of 10 of the suspects for DNA testing.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1382355/agitators-in-kasur-turn-on-pml-n-lawmakers

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Taliban IED kills 4-year-old girl in East of Afghanistan

Jan 11 2018

A small child was killed in an explosion triggered by the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the incident took place on Wednesday in the vicinity of Khogyani district.

The statement further added that an Improvised Explosive Device planted by the Taliban insurgents went off Aabko area, leaving the 4-year-old child dead.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban militants have not commented regarding the report so far.

The anti-government armed militant groups frequently use explosives materials for the roadside bombings and car bombings to target the government staff and security personnel.

However, in majority of such incidents the ordinary civilians are targeted besides such bombings incur casualties to the security personnel and in some cases the Taliban militants themselves are killed or wounded.

Earlier, at least three militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were blown up by own explosives in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The local security officials said the incident took place late on Sunday in the vicinity of the restive Achin district.

The officials further added that the militants were looking to plant an Improvised Explosive Device in Ghani Khel area when the incident took place, leaving three of them dead.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-ied-kills-4-year-old-girl-in-east-of-afghanistan-04247

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First women-only car showroom opens in Saudi Arabia

11 January 2018

JEDDAH: A Saudi private company on Thursday opened the first car showroom for women only just five months before a decision allowing females to drive takes effect.

The showroom was opened in a shopping mall in the western Red Sea port city of Jeddah to allow women the freedom to choose their own cars before they hit the road.

In a historic decision late last year, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an almost three-decade ban based on religious reasons.

The showroom offers a wide selection of vehicles from various makes and is staffed by women only.

It also provides women with solutions to finance their purchase provided by leading banks and financial companies.

The company plans to open more automobiles showrooms for women in the oil-rich kingdom.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1223696/saudi-arabia

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How the gym culture is taking hold among Saudi women

January 12, 2018

RIYADH — Saudi society has changed dramatically in terms of lifestyle habits particularly over the past two years. Among the most conspicuous of these changes is the wide acceptance of women sports.

Many official and private organizations have been actively promoting sports among Saudi women, a step that is welcomed by a sizable majority in society not only as a way to open up more recreation avenues for females but also as a means to bring down the rate of lifestyle diseases affecting the population.

Saudi Gazette interviewed three women in the Saudi sports industry for their feedback on the groundbreaking changes taking place in the field.

Sumaia Ahmed is a marketing director at one of the reputable female gyms in Riyadh. She said at the initial stages following the establishment of gyms for women in the Kingdom, the monthly membership was very expensive and most women could not afford them.

"This was almost five years ago when the gyms were very few in number and they had only the basic equipment with no trainers," Ahmed said.

She said one of the reasons for the gyms being expensive probably was the limited number of people who went to the gyms at the time. "Moreover, even if we had members, they were not committed enough and would not continue till the end of their membership period,” she said.

Ahmed says those conditions have completely changed now, pushing the gyms to develop their facilities and services by offering a variety of equipment and scheduling different types of training programs, including the advanced ones.

"We cannot compare the conditions of the present gyms with the ones at that time. Now the women's sports industry has become highly competitive, with lots of gyms having plenty of equipment and different types of training, private lessons and enticing packages opening all over the country," Ahmed said.

"I remember that a few years ago, the monthly membership fee was almost SR1,900, which has now dropped to SR500 or lower because of the competition. The difference is huge. I am very optimistic of the changes taking place in this industry,” she added.

"One of our receptionists comes two hours ahead of her shift every day to train on the equipment before she starts work. This is a great example of how popular gyms have become among Saudi women, especially the young adults and teenagers,” she added.

Amal Mansoor is a Saudi trainer who followed her passion for sports in the US.

“It was impossible for me to have a sports education here in Riyadh. When I first told my family about what type of education I wanted to pursue, they all said I would be unemployed forever. Nobody would have believed then that the demand for Saudi female trainers would significantly increase as is the case now. When I came back almost a year later, I started to see a difference in societal thinking but it was not as open as at present. Saudi women now want to live a healthier lifestyle, build muscles and express themselves through sports,” Mansoor said.

“Saudi women have started to educate themselves more about what sports are good for them and what are not. I receive lots of questions from teenagers and young adults daily on the number of reps or the type of exercise that can help them achieve their objectives, whether to reduce fat, build muscles or maintain a good health,” she added.

Maha, a trainee at one of the gyms in Riyadh, says the gym has changed her life totally.

"My daily routine has been better organized after I started the gym. Before my life was simply going to work and hanging around with friends in restaurants. It became boring with time. However, the gym has brought balance to my life. I became more healthy and determined to live a better life. I am setting goals and I will reach them, insha Allah," says Maha.

She says the gym is playing a significant part in the lives of lots of women in the Kingdom now due to greater awareness and the lessons they have learned from the lazy lifestyles of previous generations, who were vulnerable to many diseases. "What has reinforced this the most is the government's efforts in establishing an authority to promote sports among women in particular,” she said.

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/525989/SAUDI-ARABIA/How-the-gym-culture-is-taking-hold-among-Saudi-women

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