Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar
Saudi women are banned from participating in sport in their country but last week Saudi Arabia became the last competing nation at the Olympics to agree to send female athletes. This means that for the first time there will be female athletes from all competing nations.
Shahrkhani will be taking part in the Judo 78kg competition and Attar in the 800 metres.
Saudi girls are banned from all school sports and it is preferred that women do not participate in sport at all. If they want to get anywhere in sport they have to fund themselves or move abroad. Last week, on the official deadline day of 9 July, the Saudi Olympic Committee eventually gave in to pressure from the International Olympic Committee and agreed to allow female athletes to represent Saudi Arabia. However they have still made it clear that Shahrkhani must “dress modestly, be accompanied by a mail guardian and not mix with men”. Attar has Saudi Arabian and American dual nationality and has spent her life in California but she too has been told she must abide by these conditions. The women will have to participate in their events with their heads, legs and arms covered.
In an interview Attar said: “It’s such a huge honour and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”
The chances are the women will be criticised by some back home but hopefully this is the start of things beginning to change.