Woman named to head sports federation in Saudi first

Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan PHOTO:AFP/getty image

A princess has been named to head a Saudi multi-sports federation, in a first for women in the conservative Muslim kingdom where men dominate all sports, an official said Saturday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Princess Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan has become “the first woman to lead a federation” covering sporting activities for men and women.

In August 2016, the princess scored another first for women in Saudi Arabia when she was named by the cabinet to a senior post in the kingdom’s equivalent of a sports ministry.

A daughter of a former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Princess Rima is a graduate in museology from an American university.

Saudi Arabia does not allow women to practise sports in the public sphere and even the introduction of private sports centres for women has aroused criticism among religious conservatives in the Gulf state.

Although the kingdom announced it will lift a ban on women drivers from next June as part of a reform push, it still retains tight restrictions on women and imposes a strict segregation of the sexes.

Under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.



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