Week of July 10th

  • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that physical education for girls in public schools would begin this coming academic year. The announcement did not detail what activities would be offered, but said they would be introduced gradually and “in accordance with the rules of sharia,” or Islamic law. Although schools remain segregated by gender, recent decades have seen a boom in university attendance as all-female faculties have popped up across the kingdom. Saudi Arabia formally allowed sports for girls in private schools four years ago, although girls whose families permitted it have played sports in private settings for much longer. The education ministry said the decision to offer gym class for girls is part of the Saudi Vision 2030. The plan, which aims to diversify the Saudi economy and make life in the kingdom more enjoyable for citizens, calls for getting 40 percent of Saudis to exercise at least once per week. The current figure is 13 percent, according to data in the plan.
  • The six teenage girls who make up Afghanistan’s robotics team at the first global robotics competition in the U.S. were granted visas to attend the competition, after several rejections and a number of other obstacles. When the girls’ initial rejection became know there was a global outcry, not least because U.S. administration’s have heralded women’s rights as a key reason for US forces’ continued stay in Afghanistan. Only teams from Afghanistan and the Gambia were denied visas for the competition, neither of which is among the six Muslim-majority countries subjected to Donald Trump’s travel ban. However, Afghans often struggle to get US visas. In May, only 112 Afghan applicants received the B1/B2 visa to the US that the girls applied for. In addition to the stymied visa process, the girls’ equipment was also affected. The equipment they needed to build their robot was held by customs for over three months, leaving the girls with only two weeks time to finish building their robot.
  • Two of the most prominent soccer starts in Iran are calling for a change to the law that bans female audiences from attending soccer matches. The law has been in place for over 38 years – since the Iranian Revolution. “This is the demand of millions upon millions of female fans who’d like to watch soccer matches and other events up close,” Ali Karimi, a former midfielder and current coach of one of Iran’s most popular teams, told Iranian news agency ISNA this week. Karimi’s comments follow ones made last month by current Iranian national team star Masoud Shojaei, who in a video shared by Radio Farda and other sites insinuated that women being allowed in stadiums would benefit the sport because of the larger audiences each match would be able to draw. The ban on women at soccer stadiums comes from conservative ideologues who do not think it appropriate for men and women to mix in large crowds. The ban previously applied to all sports, but in 2015, the Iranian government made a small exception to the law by allowing a limited number of women to attend men’s volleyball matches, where the atmosphere is generally less rowdy.
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