Seeking sports equality for women, Human Rights Watch should target Doha Olympic bid

By  Philip Hersh
Human Rights Watch is beating the drum this week about Saudi Arabia's discrimination against women athletes, noting among other things it is one of three countries never to have sent a woman to the Olympics.
That effort should be taking aim at a different target.

It also is a country (the third is Brunei) that never has sent a woman athlete to the Olympics.
More importantly, Doha, Qatar now is an official candidate to host the 2020 OIympics, having joined Madrid, Tokyo, Istanbul and Baku, Azerbaijan in submitting its application file and guarantees to the International Olympic Committee by the Wednesday deadline.
With the bid in mind, the Qataris have vowed to have some women on their 2012 Olympic team.
That promise smacks of pragmatic pandering rather than a real effort to integrate women fully into Qatari sport.
There are a million reasons not to select Qatar as an Olympic host, some of which I have enumerated in other columns on Doha's bid.  They include climate, attitudes toward homosexuals, exploitation of migrant workers, hostility toward Israel and restrictions on women.
There is only once reason to select Doha.
The gas-rich Qataris clearly would be ready to accede to any financial demand the IOC or an international sports federation would make, hoping that having the Olympics will grant legitimacy to a country that -- as Human Rights Watch notes in its 2012 World Report on Qatar -- discriminates against women in legal matters and does not criminalize domestic violence.
Doha has said it will use a 2020 Olympics to improve opportunities for women's sports in Arab countries.
Beijing told the IOC it would use the 2008 Olympics as a catalyst for greater human rights in China, and four years later we all know that was a disgustingly empty promise.
The new Human Rights Watch report that justifiably castigates Saudi Arabia's record on women in sports gives Qatar a pass because it has "sent female athletes to regional and international competitions such as the Islamic Women’s Games."
This is not the time for Human Rights Watch to split hairs the way it did in the report on Saudi Arabia, released a day before Thursday's start of the IOC Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles.
HRW should not just be trying to pressure the IOC to ban the Saudis from the Olympics until they give women more sports opportunities.
It should pressure the IOC to reject Doha's 2020 Olympic bid out of hand, well before the Sept. 7, 2013 vote to select that host city.  The IOC should remind the Qataris about the Olympic Charter's lofty language against discrimination based on "race, religion, politics or gender" and tell the Qataris they need not bid again for as many years as it takes for the country to show more than token Olympic participation by its women -- as well as an end to Qatar's other forms of discrimination.
How many years might that be?  I suspect the best answer may come in a lyric from an old Johnny Mathis song:
Until the twelfth of never, and that's a long, long time.
Sad to say, that likely is still before the IOC puts its mouth where its stated moral principles are.


Saudi Arabia isn't sending women to the London Olympics – but a boycott wouldn't help women's rights

By Jennifer Lipman
I go to a gym – or at least I did before the extortionate fees led me to cancel my membership – in an area with a large Muslim population. I know this not because of demographics, but because the gym had a "women only" section. And on any given day it would be full of women wearing headscarves, fully covered-up, working out with the best of them.
Islam isn’t the only religion to proscribe certain clothing as immodest; Judaism has strict laws on modesty too, and certainly Christianity calls for women to behave appropriately in other respects.
But, regardless of which religion it is, there are ways to uphold the requirements of the faith without compromising on lifestyle; this can be anything from working in “male professions” as a woman, to Orthodox Jewish women wearing the latest trends with added sleeves, or Muslim women exercising to their hearts' content in private spaces.
Modesty laws don’t have to be an impediment to lifestyle, yet they are in several countries, including Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have, it emerged this week, never fielded a female athlete at the Olympic Games – and are not planning to change that tradition in London this year. Hardly surprising for a country where women aren’t allowed to get behind the wheel of a car, but there you have it. Human Rights Watch have described Saudi Arabia's male-only team as “a black eye to the sporting community”, and emphasised the need to put pressure on the Saudis, as well as the other culprits, Qatar and Brunei. HRW especially wants the International Olympic Committee to take a harder line with the Saudis over the issue.
I’m not one for boycotts or bans; stopping the Saudi athletes from participating would not solve anything for the women back home, nor is it likely given the political considerations. Cultural shifts don’t happen over the course of two-week athletic competitions.
But in any case, the problem starts much earlier. According to HRW, women in Saudi Arabia have restricted access to physical education and sports clubs, and therein lies the problem.
Making this about the Olympics is an easy way for HRW to shine a spotlight on systematic sexism in Saudi Arabia. But the fight shouldn’t – at first, anyway – be about giving Saudi women a place at the international competitive table. It should be about showing progressive elements in Saudi society that women can play sport and retain their modesty; that running or throwing a ball need not be antithetical to religious dogma.
The last year has seen the development of a campaign by Saudi women to win the right to drive. Last month the Saudi government promised to press ahead with a law that would mean only women could work in lingerie and clothing shops. That's seemingly a no-brainer – in a conservative culture, the likelihood of a woman wanting to buy a bra from a man has got to be tiny. But these are small ripples of progress.
Women suffer incomprehensible abuses every day in Saudi Arabia, many of them on the grounds of "modesty". Advancing the rights of women has been shown across the world to be crucial, not just for them but for the broader progress of society, economically and socially. Yet while I wish it could, change isn’t going to happen overnight in Saudi Arabia, probably not by the time of this Olympic Games or even the next.
And if anything, blocking Saudi Arabia from the Olympics will only make change less likely, by encouraging a kneejerk response from the conservative elements and resulting in an introverted society that operates away from the world’s gaze. It’s far more important to make Saudi men and women aware that, to begin with at least, there is a middle ground, whether in terms of women’s only sections or other short-term fixes.
It’s easy to fear that things will never change for Saudi women. But a century ago British women didn’t have the vote, and until 1870, married women couldn’t own property. They too were things that at one time seemed impossible to change.
Source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jenniferlipman/100137860/saudi-arabia-isnt-sending-women-to-the-london-olympics-but-a-boycott-wouldnt-help-womens-rights/


Human Rights Group Calls on IOC/Saudi Arabia to End Ban on Women’s Sports

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As the world prepares for the 2012 Olympics in London this summer and the 5th IOC World Conference on Women in Sport gets underway in Los Angeles, the Saudi government continues to discriminate against women. The country has never sent a female athlete to the Olympics and has never been penalized by the international Olympic authorities for violating the IOC’s pledge of equality.
Today Human Rights Watch issued a report and called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make ending discrimination against women in sports in the kingdom a condition for Saudi Arabia’s participation in Olympic sporting events, including the 2012 London Games.
In interviews with Saudi women and international sporting officials, the human rights group found that Saudi government restrictions put sports beyond the reach of almost all women in the Gulf nation.
The 51-page report, “‘Steps of the Devil’: Denial of Women and Girls’ Right to Sport in Saudi Arabia,” documents discrimination by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education in denying girls physical education in state schools, as well as discriminatory practices by the General Presidency for Youth Welfare in licensing women’s gyms and supporting only all-male sports clubs.”
Saudi Arabia is one of only three countries in the world never to have sent a female athlete to the Olympics. The other two, Qatar and Brunei, do not bar women from competitive sports and their women athletes have participated in other international sporting competitions. Qatar has supported sports for women over the past decade and said that it plans to send women athletes to the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Women and girls are not only denied the thrill of competition, but also the physical and psychological benefits, leading to longer, healthier lives, that participation in sports conveys. Obesity rates have been growing in Saudi Arabia in recent years, in particular among women, as have related diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In Saudi Arabia, between two-thirds to three-quarters of adults and 25 to 40 percent of children and adolescents are estimated to be overweight or obese, according to a scientific article in Obesity Review in 2011.
According to the report, “Girls, unlike boys, receive no physical education in state schools, and inferior quality physical education in the private schools that offer the subject. Of 153 youth ministry-supported sports clubs in the country, none have a women’s team. Only one private sports company, Jeddah United, boasts women’s basketball teams, while other women’s soccer teams train informally and play in underground leagues.”
Human Rights Watch said that the exclusion of women and girls from sports and exercise in Saudi Arabia is part and parcel of the wide-scale, systematic discrimination against them in the country. Women have no rights to function as autonomous human beings; instead they are required to obtain permission from a male legal guardian (a father, son, or husband) to carry out ordinary life activities, including employment, education, medical procedures, opening a business or bank account, traveling, marrying, or driving.
A Los Angeles Times article explains “religious leaders have argued that sports create a slippery slope toward immorality. One group of religious scholars argued that swimming, soccer and basketball were too likely to reveal “private parts,” which includes large areas of the body. ” As you probably know, the ultra-conservative Islamic state requires women to conceal their bodies and sometimes even their faces while in public.
The Olympics have grappled with human rights issues before: South Africa was banned from taking part in the Games from 1964 to 1992 because of its apartheid policy. Afghanistan was shut out in 1999 because of discrimination against women under the Taliban; it was reinstated in 2002.
What do you think? Should Saudi Arabia be forced to change it’s domestic policy and allow girls to play sports? Is not allowing girls to play sports a human rights issue?


Interview with Ibtinaj Muhammad by NPR: Olympic Hopeful Mixes Muslim Faith And Fencing

By Michel Martin
Host (Martin): We want to turn our attention now to sports. Ibtihaj Muhammad is currently training about 40 hours a week, hoping to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Her dedication and skill would cause her to stand out, anyway, but there's another reason she does: her hijab, which she wears while competing. She hopes to become the first American Muslim woman to compete and hopefully win at the Olympic Games wearing a hijab.
And she was nice enough to take a break from her busy schedule to talk with us more about her sport and her faith. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
MARTIN: For listeners not familiar with fencing, could you tell us a little bit more about the sport and also about your particular weapon? You compete in the saber, if I have that right.
MUHAMMAD: Yes. A lot of people have seen fencing in movies like "The Parent Trap," or have an idea of it from "Zorro." And it's, I guess, something similar to that. We use weapons, and I'd like to describe it as the physical chess. It's very tactical, and you have to be athletic, and it's really exciting.
MARTIN: I do want to mention that you are ranked number two among U.S. women using that weapon.
MARTIN: So that's no small achievement there. I just want to let people know that, you're highly accomplished in your field. How did you get interested in fencing?
MUHAMMAD: I was driving past my local high school - I think I was about 12 - with my mom, and she noticed the fencing team practicing in the high school from the road and, you know, she suggested that I try out when I got to high school. And what drew us to fencing was the long sleeves and long pants that the fencers wore.
As a practicing Muslim woman, I knew that I would not only have to find a sport that accommodated my religious beliefs, but also where I could be fully covered and not have to change the uniform.
MARTIN: And had you played any sports before?
MUHAMMAD: Yeah, I have. I think back then I ran track. I played softball and a little bit of tennis.
MARTIN: But you were younger than 12, so you were not yet at the age where you would be expected to begin covering. Is that it?
MUHAMMAD: No, no, no, no. But when I got to high school, I played four years of volleyball. I played softball. And, you know, with volleyball, you wear - my teammates wore spandex and, like, a tank top. That was our team uniform. And I wore a t-shirt underneath the tank top and I swore sweatpants. So fencing was a bit different in that I didn't have to alter the uniform at all, and I really felt a part of the team.
MARTIN: What is it that you like about it? Obviously, it took to you and you've taken to it. What do you think you - what do you like about it, and why do you think you're good at it?
MUHAMMAD: You know, it's tough. I enjoy being able to critique myself when I'm finished fencing, whether I win or lose. I like that I can, you know, pick apart that particular bout. I know how I scored touches, how I lost touches or points. You know, it's really easy to, you know, lose and be able to fix your mistakes, whereas on a team, you know, I guess whether you win or lose can be in the hands of someone else, and I've never felt comfortable with that.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm speaking with Ibtihaj Muhammad. She is a fencer. She has her sights set on the 2012 London Olympics. She's currently ranked number two among U.S. women using her weapon, the saber. And she is also a Muslim American, and she plans to compete wearing her hijab. She hopes to be the first Muslim American woman to compete at an Olympic games, in fact, wearing hijab.
I notice you said you were looking for a sport where you didn't have to modify the uniform, where hopefully you actually just fit in more and didn't feel kind of having to make these accommodations. But you have had to make accommodations to compete.
For example, I understand that you participated in a training camp in Colorado Springs which was during Ramadan, where the observant fast from sunup to sundown. How did you accommodate the rigorous training schedule - especially at altitude, right - while fasting? And also refraining from taking water. How did you do it?
MUHAMMAD: You know, that was, honestly, I think, one of the toughest Ramadans that I've had in my experience while fasting, not only, you know, abstaining from eating or drinking, but also, as you said, the altitude. Trying to be an athlete and train at a really high altitude is tough. You dehydrate a lot faster. You're susceptible to injury when you're dehydrated. So we were training twice a day, and I found that meeting with the trainers at the Olympic training center, they were really, really helpful.
They put me on a strict diet, like I didn't have a lot of salt intake. I had to wake up periodically in the night to consume Gatorade and water to make sure that I didn't suffer from dehydration. And the tough thing about it is, you know, when you're not drinking and you're training at this level, you do suffer from dehydration, and I did have a few muscle strains and pulls during that time. But, you know, fasting is a part of my life. Being Muslim is a part of my life, and, you know, fencing, I work into it, but I wouldn't fence if it hindered, you know, me practicing my religion in any way.
MARTIN: But won't the Olympic Games in 2012 coincide with Ramadan?
MUHAMMAD: Yeah, they will.
MARTIN: Well, how do you anticipate adjusting? I guess you'll have to do the same thing, right? Hydrate at night and - I don't know. What are you going to do?
MUHAMMAD: Yeah. I mean, honestly, if I'm blessed to make the team, then that's like the furthest thing from my mind, you know, having to fast while competing. I've done it before and, you know, I feel as though I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. It's not something that I worry about.
MARTIN: You know, people often - these days, the narrative around being Muslim American is, you know, you get sort of these sort of polar opposite perspectives. On the one hand, you know, there was a series on - a reality series - it's just actually concluding this weekend - called "All-American Muslim." The idea, obviously, is to show that, you know, Muslims are Americans like everybody else and they do the same stuff and, you know, they want to play sports and, you know, they have their family squabbles and, you know, men do the dishes and, you know...
MARTIN: ...excuse me, it's not a big deal. And then there's this other thing, where there's this other sort of narrative where people are - there's a constant tension, and are people treating you differently because of your hijab or your religious practices. And then there's the other story of: Can we really trust these people? Are they really our fellow, you know, patriots? Are they really loyal to the country and so forth?
And I'm just - you know, we're talking about your sport and, really, if we weren't talking about the accommodations of Ramadan and the uniform, we could really be talking to, sort of, any other athlete. I guess what I'm wondering is, in your world, does the fact of your being a Muslim American matter a very great deal, except for the fact that it is important to you in your own individual way and as a part of who you are? Does that make sense? Do you know what I'm asking?
MUHAMMAD: It does. You know, being a Muslim American is not easy at all. It's very difficult. And the way I practice Islam speaks for itself and, you know, people can either accept me or they can choose not to. And I feel the same way about the show. I don't think that "All-American Muslim" in any way represents who I am. I like to think that I'm a very conservative Muslim, and I think that a lot of the Muslims on that show, I would say, are extremely liberal.
But when you do have people who have this close-minded view of what Islam is, it's easy to group us all into one box or one category.
MARTIN: Do you hope, though, that in part, your participation in the Olympics will - if you are lucky enough to make the team - will have some positive benefit in how people view Muslims and Islam? Or would you really prefer that they not think about your religion or your religious identity when you're competing?
MUHAMMAD: I mean, the reality is that I am different. I mean, I'm African-American and I do wear the hijab. So I know that I look completely different from my teammates, and I don't expect everyone to ignore that fact. I mean, even with them fencing, yes, there are very, very few Muslims. I'm the only Muslim on the team, but there are even fewer, I'd say, minorities.
To some way, you know, encourage or inspire minorities - religious minorities in the country to see themselves in this space, I know that I have accomplished a lot, but I think that there's definitely more ground to cover. I mean, fencing has done so much for me. You know, it helped me get into a really great university, and I wouldn't be where I am in my life without fencing, without sports. And it's helped me focus in so many ways.
So if my message reaches anyone, I hope that it reaches more kids than anything. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin and be comfortable with practicing their religion, and not only in the United States, but everywhere.
MARTIN: Ibtihaj Muhammad is a fencer. She currently ranks number two among U.S. women using her particular weapon, the saber. She is training to compete in the 2012 Olympics, which will be held in London. And she was kind enough to join us today from our studios in New York.
Ibtihaj, thank you so much for speaking with us, and good luck to you in everything. Keep us posted.
MUHAMMAD: Michel, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
MARTIN: Please join us tomorrow for our regular Faith Matters conversation. We'll talk about the observance of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.
Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/05/144737954/olympic-hopeful-mixes-muslim-faith-and-fencing


Female Asian in Football Award 2012 – Rimla Akhtar

2012, the year of the Olympics in London and sport fever has certainly gripped North West London where the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation was nominated for the Football Foundation of the Year at the first ever Asian Football Awards held at Wembley stadium.
The Asian Football Awards ceremony was established with the help of Kick It Out and the Football Association and took place on Tuesday 24th January.

Rimla Akhtar was part of the futsal team when the Muslim Women's Sport Foundation was set up. It aims to raise awareness of the issues facing Muslim women in sport as well as directly producing and implementing the solutions.

Now the current Chair, Rimla has also represented the MWSF at international futsal competitions. She has worked in the FA and footballing community through consultancy and holds a number of positions including on the National Race Equality Advisory Group, the Asian and Muslim Women and Girls Working Group and the Referees Diversity Action Group.  This has been critical to the development of women’s sport for the BME community.

Her loyalty, passion and dedication to her work has been rewarded yet again as Rimla won and was presented with the Asian Woman in Football Award 2012.
Rimla Akhtar, said: "Over the past eleven years the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF) has worked to increase the accessibility of sports facilities and opportunities to play and compete for those who are severely under-represented across all aspects of sport.  We have always used sport as a powerful means of uniting people and overcoming prejudices, particularly those against minority communities."

She goes on to say: “I am so pleased that the Foundation was shortlisted for a great award and I’m clearly humbled at my winning an award.  We have made so much difference to the community and the sporting world – I hope that everyone involved is proud of this moment. It’ll certainly spur us on to do even greater work.”
The MWSF will also be back at Wembley Stadium in April 2012 celebrating the contribution of individuals and organisations to the unique area of minority ethnic sports with the inaugural Ambassador Awards. www.awards.mwsf.org.uk

For more information on the Asian Football Awards go to http://www.asianfootballawards.co.uk

For more information on Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation go to www.mwsf.org.uk and for press/pr enquiries call: Allison Cooper /0208 427 0873/ 07935 057 618 

Tabb basketball player Yasmeen Amer wears her faith with pride on court

Tabb's Yasmeen Amer
Tabb's Yasmeen Amer (Kaitlin McKeown, Daily Press / February 2, 2012)
By Marty O'Brien, mobrien@dailypress.com | 757-247-4963

There were times after Yasmeen Amer began wearing a hijab that she felt conflicted and even self-conscious. She wondered how her Tabb High classmates would react to the scarf and attire traditionally worn by practicing Muslim women as a form of modesty.

And, as a typical teenager, she was anxious for her peers to admire her hair and fashion sense. As her faith and self-assurance has grown, Yasmeen has packed those concerns away with her baby dolls.

"At first I didn't want to do it, but it grew on me," said Yasmeen, a Tabb sophomore, of wearing a hijab. "I cared about what my friends would think and whether I'd lose my friends.

"Then I came to realize, 'You know what? They're not my friends if they don't accept me as who I am.' "

Yasmeen is very much accepted by her teammates on the Tabb High junior varsity girls basketball team. For one thing, she is an excellent defender although she's playing basketball for the first time.

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What they love most about her is her bubbly personality and boundless enthusiasm. The preconception some Americans have that Muslim women are shy because of their covering does not come close to fitting Yasmeen.

"Yasmeen has a very, very positive attitude," Tabb JV girls coach Megan Stangroom said. "One game she wasn't here, and it was so quiet without her high energy, clapping and positivity around.

"I love to put her out there when we need to get some sort of tempo on defense. Then all the sudden we're playing with more intensity, because when one person steps up, everybody wants to."

Said Laura Barber, a Tabb guard, "She's a very energetic girl. She's always the one pumping us up before and after games."

Yasmeen went out for the JV basketball team this season because Barber and Tabb varsity player Brooke Mahan convinced her she could be good at it. Yameen's attitude was typically sunny.

"I thought, 'Why not? What's going to stop me?' " she said.

Positive attitude not withstanding, basketball is not easy to master when you begin nearing your 16th birthday. So Yasmeen immediately gravitated toward the part of the game you can become good at quickly with hustle and enthusiasm: defense. She is working hard to become a better shooter, passer and dribbler.

"I'll look at a move a girl just did and tell myself, 'I'm going home and practice that so I can be just as good as she is,' " Yasmeen said. "I've always picked up sports pretty quickly for some reason.

"Soccer is my main sport, so I'm a fast runner."

Yasmeen started for Tabb last week in a win over Bruton. Her athleticism was apparent in the several steals and rebounds she had, although she did not score.

She stood out in another way: In addition to covering her hair, Yasmeen wore a long-sleeved white shirt under her jersey and black leggings beneath her shorts, because Muslim females who wear hijab must also cover their skin. Because she wears yoga pants under her shorts in practice, her teammates have nicknamed her "Yasercize."

Yasmeen, the consummate teammate, accepts the moniker with a smile.

"I love to cheer my team on and I love every single person on it," she said. "They're like my inspiration and I want to do everything I can to encourage them."

Some, she senses, are not so accepting of her attire or the Muslim faith it represents. She has learned not to take the occasional double-takes to heart.

"Honestly, you always get those looks, whispers and stares," she said. "You just take it, brush it off and say, 'That's just who I am.'

"As I became stronger in my religion and matured, it didn't matter what people thought of me. It's between me and God.

"My faith guides me and helps me with decisions I need to make. If I question something, I go and repent to God and ask him for advice, and he's always there."

Yasmeen, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Egypt in the early 1970s, prays five times a day. She leans on prayer most when she's stressed out about school.

She's doing very well academically, with a 4.1 grade point average and ambitions of becoming an anesthesiologist. She balances religious devotion and studying with basketball, soccer and lots of time for her friends.

Yasmeen fits in perfectly with her teammates and friends, even if her attire sets her apart. So her days of feeling self-conscious about wearing a hijab appear to be permanently behind her.

"I can do whatever I want, as a normal American teenager does, but with my scarf," Yasmeen said. "I love to hang out with my friends, play sports and go to movies.

"It doesn't hold me back from anything."
Source: http://www.dailypress.com/sports/highschool/dp-spt-tabbjvgirl-0205-20120204,0,7590622.story


Sign The Petition: Allow girls & women to play Football wearing the proper Headscarfs - Hijab

To Sign: http://www.change.org/petitions/allow-girls-women-to-play-football-wearing-headscarfs?utm_medium=email&utm_source=action_alert
Allow girls & women to play Football wearing Headscarfs
Why This Is Important
During youth Olympics Football Tournament in Singapore 2010, FIFA & the executive committee issued that players couldn’t not wear a headscarf - Hijab, However the players may wear a cap that covers the players heads to the hairline, but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck
Girls and Women from many countries were affected by the following decision and were not allowed to play, which was a painful moment to the players from Jordan, Palestine ,Bahrain and Iran during the Olympics Qualification Rounds 2011.
This petition was done to show the community support to women wearing Headscarfs – Hijab playing football. We need everyones support in this petition to be sent to FIFA and to hope FIFA will reconsider this decision and allow us to play with the Headscarf
خلال دورة الالعاب الاولمبية للشابات 2010 في سنغافورة،أصدرت اللجنة التنفيذية و الفيفا قرار بمنع اللاعبات من ارتداءالحجاب ، و يجوز للاعبات ارتداء قبعة تغطي رأس اللاعبة ، ولكن لا تمتد أسفل الأذنين لتغطية الرقبة.
 والفيفا ستصدر قرارا نهائيا مارس 2012 في هذه المسألة، ونحن بهذه العريضة نتمنى جمع اكبر عدد من الاصوات لنبين دعم المجتمع لسمح ارتداء الحجاب في جميع مباريات كرة القدم المحلية والدولية


  • International Football Association Board
  • Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
  • Irish Football Association
  • The Football Association of Wales
  • Scottish Football Association

  • Special Thanks to Dr Martha Saavedra


Qatari women hope to make history in 2012

Qatari women hope to make history in 2012
DOHAQatar - Three weeks before the Arab Games in Doha,Qatari sports officials called Nada Mohammed Wafa to tell her she would be competing in the Middle East's biggest sportingevent.
Surprised - and a bit scared - the 17-year-old swimmer replied: "Oh wowSure!"
Wafawho had only competed in school-level events until then,trained hard to make up for the short time she had beforemaking history by becoming the first woman on Qatar's nationalswim team.
"It's a good feelingbut it's also very lonely," Wafa said. "It's justmemyself and I."
Wafa may be Qatar's lone female swimmerbut she is part of agroup of emerging athletes in the conservative Muslim countrythat hopes to send women to the Olympics for the first time inLondon next year.
And if Wafa's phone rings in five months or somebody confirmsher name is on the listshe would be delighted to go andcompete.
"I'd be over the moon," Wafa said.
Along with Saudi Arabia and BruneiQatar has never sent femaleathletes to the OlympicsLast yearthe International OlympicCommittee urged the three countries to end the practice ofsending all-male teams to the Gameshoping that naming andshaming would do more for female athletes than banning theirnations from the Olympics.
While Saudi Arabia's plans to send women to the London Games remain wrapped in secrecy,Qatar is feverishly working to escape the stigma that comes with failing to include women.
Over the past decadethe tiny but rich Gulf country has been targeting sports as a vehicle toshowcase its global aspirationsLast yearit became the first Arab country to win the right tohost the World Cup in 2022. And Qatar's bid for the 2020 Olympics adds the pressure toinclude women on the teams in London.
Qatar Olympic Committee President Sheik Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said femaleathletes have been competing in international tournaments for the past three yearsincludinglast year's Youth Olympics in Singapore.
The only reason women were not included for the 2008 Beijing Games is because they didn'tqualify in any sportSheik Saoud saidHe added that Qatar is talking to the IOC about sendingfemale athletes to the Games next year on wild-card invitations.
"That's the thing with the OlympicsThey can't go if they don't qualify," Sheik Saoud said. "It'snot about us being unwilling to send women to the tournamentBut it takes time to prepareathletes to compete on the international level."
It also takes time to change mindsets in a deeply conservative societyQatar follows theWahhabi branch of Islama strict version that predominates in Saudi Arabia.
There are no written laws in Qatar - or Saudi Arabia - that ban and restrict women fromparticipating in sportsRatherthe stigma of female athletes is rooted in conservative traditionsand religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make themvulnerable to sins.
Unlike in Saudi Arabiawhere women are still banned from drivingmuch has changed in Qatarsince the country began an ambitious process of opening up to the worldlargely throughhosting high-profile sporting events in tennissoccerand track and field.
But getting women to compete in Qatar is quite a different thing than sending then to competeabroad.
"It's unusual in this culture," said Hana al-Badra 20-year-old handball player who has seen thechange since she joined Qatar's first female handball team four years ago. "My teachers andmy friends in school use to look at me and say, 'You are a girl and you are traveling to playoutsideHow can your family let you?' But now it's become normal."
Wafathe swimmerdidn't win any medals at the Arab Games but succeeded in improving hertimes.
She beat her best in the 50m breast stroke by 3 seconds and missed the finals by a second.She also improved her time in the 50m freestyle by a secondbeat her personal best in the100m breast stroke by 15 seconds and was happy with her time of 1 min, 10 secs in the 100freestyle.
"It was an amazing experience," Wafa said. "I had so little time to trainbut I finished secondsaway from championsI am so happy with my results."
Qatar has invested heavily in women's sports over the past decadeintroducing specialprograms for girls in school and organizing training camps at home and abroad for femaleathletes with talent and ambition to compete on the international level.
In the past three yearsal-Badr and her teammates played in three international tournaments,including last year's Asian Games in GuangzhouChinawhere 90 Qatari women competed in ahalf-dozen disciplines.
Qatar also started a six-team women's soccer league last year and hosted a Gulf basketballtournamentThe shining moment for Qatar's female athletes came at last year's inauguralYouth Olympic Games in Singaporewhere two qualified to compete.
"It's a big challenge for us," said Lolwah al-Marrithe general secretary of Qatar's Olympiccommittee who is charged with developing sports for women. "When we startedfamilies wereconcerned for the girlssafety and were afraid people would start talking badly about their daughters."
The focus 10 years ago was on building women's team sportsbut by December 2011, whenDoha was hosting the Arab Games, 40 percent of the Qatari delegation was womencompetingin volleyball and basketball and eight individual sportsincluding gymnastics and swimming.
"The dress code is a big problem in these sports," al-Marri said.
Associated Press