Maldives Women’s Team Forfeit Basketball Tournament Over Headscarf Ban


Maldives women’s team forfeit basketball tournament over headscarf ban thumbnail

The Maldives’ women’s basketball team refused to play without their headscarves, forfeiting the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) first under 18 three-on-three tournament held in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this week.
“The girls were really upset, we are as well. We came prepared based on the uniform the team wore in the last two games,” Maldives Basketball Association (MBA) President Ahmed Hafiz told Minivan News today (May 27).
“According to FIBA, the head cannot be covered during play. We have to go with FIBA rules if we want to play,” Hafiz stated.
The Maldives’ women’s basketball team has been allowed to participate in past tournaments while wearing burugaathah (headscarves), however the decision to make an exception to the rules “depends on the officials”, according to Hafiz.
“Qatar held a tournament two weeks back and there were some complaints that the Qatar team was wearing headgear, so FIBA was forced to apply the rules,” Hafiz explained. “Maybe that is the reason this issue came up for the Maldives [in this tournament].”
FIBA Asia has designed a jersey for Muslim players, but still needs to obtain FIBA international approval, according to the MBA.
“FIBA Asia is working on this because lots of Muslim countries are involved. Now the are suggesting to FIBA International to change the rules to allow headgear,” said Hafiz.
The Maldives’ under 18 women’s team is planning to participate in the upcoming Asian Youth Games, to be held this August in Nanjing, China, according to Hafiz.
“However, [the choice] is up to the players. We will not force them,” he said.
“This is a big problem for the game and will ruin the development of women’s basketball for a place like this, because there are still very few girl players and most wear the burugaa,” MBA Secretary General Arif Riza told Minivan News today.
“FIBA is pretty clear about the rules, so although the team has been allowed to play twice before, this was a mistake of ours also,” said Riza.
The primary issues of concern to MBA are that FIBA permitted the Maldives’ team to wear headscarves during tournaments in 2011 and 2012 as well as allowed other teams to play in violation of different dress code rules, such as wearing t-shirts instead of jerseys, according to Riza.
“Immediately after President Hafiz arrives [from Thailand] we will discuss the issue and write FIBA a letter,” said Riza.
“They should be allowed to have the right to play,” he declared.

FIBA Response
The headgear ban is “a part of FIBA Rules, but not a policy,” FIBA AsiaSecretary General Hagop Khajirian told Minivan News Thursday (May 23).
“It has nothing to do with headscarves as such, but more to do with the regulations which stipulate that the playing gears of players has to be such that it may not cause any harm or hindrance to themselves or opponent players,” explained Khajirian.
Although these rules have “been the case always”, FIBA is currently reviewing the headscarf restriction.
“There have been requests from many nations regarding this. And the FIBA Asia Central Board, in its meeting [held] on April 24 in Kuala Lumpur, resolved to send a study paper to FIBA to be taken up for further consideration,” said Khajirian.

The choice to cover
While Maldivian women’s participation in basketball is slowly increasing, netballis popular nationwide. Although there are key distinctions between the two sports – such as no dribbling in netball – the rules are very similar, according to a skilled Maldivian netball player of nine years and student coach of six years.
“Wearing the burugaa while playing netball is no problem for us, it is not difficult and we’ve never experienced any injuries [from the headscarves],” she explained on condition of anonimity.
“Every person has the choice of whether or not they choose to wear the burugaa. However, it is a religious thing, in Islam Muslims have to cover, it is the right thing,” she continued.
“Although some are not wearing [headscarves], that is their choice,” she added.
The netball enthusiast agreed with the Maldives’ women’s basketball team decision to not remove their headscarves and forefit their game in the recent FIBA three-on-three tournament.
“Their choice was the correct one, they do not want to break religous rules,” she said.
“FIBA should change their rules if they want Maldivians to participate, because so many [women] are wearing burugaathah. They have to change so everyone can compete,” she added.

Burugaa bans
A senor researcher from the internatonal NGO, Human Rights Watch, previously highlighted the discriminatory issue of banning women from wearing headscarves, in a 2012 article “Banning Muslim Veil Denies Women a Choice, Too”.
“The sad irony is that whether they are being forced to cover up or to uncover, these women are being discriminated against. Banned from wearing the hijab – a traditional Muslim headscarf – or forced to veil themselves, women around the world are being stripped of their basic rights to personal autonomy; to freedom of expression; and to freedom of religion, thought and conscience,” wrote Judith Sunderland.
“Denying women the right to cover themselves is as wrong as forcing them to do so. Muslim women, like all women, should have the right to dress as they choose and to make decisions about their lives and how to express their faith, identity and moral values. And they should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their chosen profession,” notes the article.
Muslim women’s basketball players in Switzerland and Baharain have also faced controversial opposition to their refual to remove their headscarves.
The Baharaini team was “lauded” for their refusal to remove their headscarves during an international competition in 2009, according to Gulf News.
Meanwhile, Sura Al-Shawk, a 19 year-old STV Luzern basketball player, was denied permission to play while wearing a headscarf by the Swiss basketball association ProBasket in 2010, reported the Associated Press.
ProBasket told the Associated Press it followed FIBA rules and that wearing the headscarf while playing basketball “could increase the risk of injury and the sport has to be religiously neutral”.
In July 2012, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)overturned a headscarf ban, which was put into place in 2007, after a yearlong campaign led by FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, reported the Associated Press.


Saudi Arabia To Allow Women Into Stadiums


Saudi Arabia, under domestic and international pressure to grant women sporting rights, is creating separate stadium sections so that female spectators and journalists can attend soccer matches in a country that has no public physical education or sporting facilities for women.

The move announced by the recently elected head of the Saudi Football Federation, Ahmed Eid Alharbi, a storied player believed to be a reformer, also comes as soccer is emerging as a focal point of dissent in the conservative kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has been slow in granting limited enhancement of women’s rights in response to demands by activists. Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving, travelling without authorization from a male relative and banned from working in a host of professions. Saudi Arabia’s religious police said last month that women would be allowed to ride bikes and motorbikes in recreational areas provided that they were properly dressed and accompanied by a male relative.

Saudi Arabia recently also announced that it would allow girl’s physical education in private schools as long as they do so in line with Islamic law. Yet, a five-year national sports plan, the kingdom’s first, currently being drafted does not make provisions for women’s sports. Saudi sources say the government is also for the first time considering licensing women’s soccer clubs.

Saudi Arabia last year sent under pressure from the International Olympic Committee women athletes, albeit expatriate ones, to the 2012 London Olympics, the first time Saudi women competed in an international tournament. The kingdom is also under pressure from the West Asian Football Federation, which earlier this year, issued guidelines to ensure that women have equal rights and opportunities in soccer.

Speaking at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, according to Saudi press reports, Mr. Alharbi hinted at the economic impact of allowing women to attend matches by saying that the creation of facilities for them would increase capacity at various stadiums by 15 percent. He said the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah would be the first to accommodate up to 32,000 women followed by the King Abdullah City stadium in the capital in 2014. Saudi Arabia, which enforces strict gender segregation, first announced in 2012 plans to upgrade the Jeddah stadium to enable women to enter.

Meanwhile, in the latest politically-loaded soccer incident, Al Ittihad SC of Jeddah, filed a complaint against Riyadh’s Al Hilal SC after an Al Ittihad official and fans tweeted and chanted racist remarks. Al Ittihad, which has a number of dark-skinned Saudi players, and Al Hilal are among Saudi Arabia’s top clubs.

“The last match between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad clearly revealed the indecency of Al-Ittihad players through two movements – one from ‘the monkey’ Fahd Al-Muwallad who did not stop proceeding when Muhammad Al-Qarni was injured in a jostle with him. Secondly, (they) did not fulfill the commitment to Majed Al-Murshidi, and did not greet or thank him,” Saud Al-Sahli, assistant director of public relations and announcer at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, said on Twitter. Al Hilal fans chanted Some Al-Hilal fans had shouted “Nigger, Nigger” during the match earlier this month. Messrs. Al-Muwallad and Al-Qarni are both dark-skinned.

Saudi newspapers warned that racist incidents threaten to rekindle religious sectarianism, tribalism, and regionalism in the kingdom, in part a reference to Shiite Muslim protests in the oil-rich Eastern Province. 
“The racist and sectarian utterances of sports fans should not be punished by fines alone, as some heads of the sports clubs are immensely rich and can pay the fines against their fans without feeling any burden. There should be harsher punishments, including a ban on the fans from entering the stadiums, reducing the club’s league points or even downgrading it to a lower division,” the Saudi Gazette said in an editorial.

Members of the royal family with positions in Saudi soccer or who own clubs have been repeatedly in the past year in the firing line of disgruntled fans. A Facebook page entitled Nasrawi Revolution demands the resignation of Prince Faisal bin Turki, the owner of storied Riyadh club Al Nasser FC and a burly nephew of King Abdullah who sports a mustache and chin hair. A You Tube video captured Prince Faisal seemingly being pelted and chanted against as he rushed off the soccer pitch after rudely shoving a security official aside.

The campaign against Prince Faisal follows last year’s unprecedented resignation of Prince Nawaf bin Feisal as head of the Saudi Football Federation (SFF), the first royal to be persuaded by public pressure step down in a region where monarchial control of the sport is seen as politically important.

Prince Nawaf’s resignation led to the election of Mr. Alharbi, a commoner, in a country that views free and fair polling as a Western concept that is inappropriate for the kingdom. Prince Nawaf retained his position as head of the Saudi Olympic Committee and the senior official responsible for youth welfare that effectively controls the SFF.

Nevertheless, the resignation of Prince Nawaf and the campaign against Prince Faisal gains added significance in a nation in which the results of premier league clubs associated with various members of the kingdom’s secretive royal family are seen as a barometer of their relative status, particularly at a time that its septuagenarian and octogenarian leaders prepare for a gradual generational transition.
Said a Saudi journalist, summing up the mood among fans and many other Saudis: “Everything is upside down. Revolution is possible. There is change, but it is slow. It has to be fast. Nobody knows what will happen.”


Samina Baig: First Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest

Samina and her brother completed their trek up Mount Everest. PHOTO: theyouthrepublic.com
Mountaineer Samina Baig has become the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain with a peak at 8,848 metres.
Baig completed the climb to the summit at around 7:30am local time with her brother Mirza Ali, who becomes the third and youngest Pakistani male to scale the mountain.
Nepal Mountaineering Department official Tilak Padney said that 35 foreigners accompanied by 29 Nepalese Sherpa guides reached the peak after climbing all night from the highest camp on South Col — the pass between Everest and a neighboring mountain.
Ali (29) and Baig (21) are natives of Shimshal village in Hunza valley, Pakistan. Ali has been climbing since age 15, and he was Baig’s mentor, guide and support.
On his personal blog, Ali stated that this climb was the “First Pakistani Gender Equality Mt Everest Expedition” .
Samina Baig and her brother climbing Everest. PHOTO: Pakyouthoutreach
Description of climb
“Once at base camp, we will begin our acclimatization trips. This involves climbing to Camp 1, staying the night, then returning to base camp to rest, then climbing to Camp 1 and staying the night and climbing on to Camp 2 and staying the night, before returning to base camp and so on up to Camp 3.
Once our acclimatisation trips have finished, and assuming we are  in good health  and super fit physically and mentally, we’ll be ready to try for the summit, which should be mid May. We will wait for a good weather forecast or ‘window’ for the possible summit  attempt.”

Pakistan, India flags fly together
Indian twin sisters Tashi and Nugshi were also at the top of the Everest with Baig and Ali. By hoisting Pakistani and Indian flags side by side, the four South-Asians hoped to spread the message of Pak-India peace and friendship.
Samina Baig with Tashi and Nugshi during Acclimatization phase
Source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/551508/samina-baig-first-pakistani-woman-to-scale-mount-everest/ 

Saudi woman tops Everest as country warms to women in sports

KATHMANDU — Saudi woman Raha Moharrak reached the summit of Nepal's Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, in a first for the conservative Muslim kingdom where women's sports are severely restricted, tourism officials said on Sunday.
The 25-year-old reached the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) summit early Saturday morning with a party of foreign mountaineers and Nepalese guides.
"She reached the peak with 12 other members of the expedition," Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with Nepal's tourism ministry, told AFP from Everest Base Camp.
"We have been able to contact her and she is very exhausted and now resting," Hassan Moharrak, the climber's father, told AFP, adding that the family was very happy with her achievement.
Moharrak's feat is backdropped by her country's gradual warming to the idea of women participating in sports.
In a historic first for the country, two female athletes participated in the 2012 London Olympic games.
Early this month, the government allowed some girls in private schools to participate in athletics but requested the schools ensure girls wear "a covering and decent outfit" for sport activities in "suitable areas".
According to international watchdog Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that still effectively bars girls from taking part in sports in government schools.
"It's terrific a Saudi woman has been able to reach the summit of Everest," Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
"But it's worth remembering that meanwhile millions of women and girls in Saudi Arabia are still denied the right to climb in a gym or play any sports, including in state schools -- as a matter of government policy."
Moharrak's Everest expedition, dubbed "Arabs with Altitude", undertook the quest to raise money for education charities in Nepal.
Hundreds of climbers will attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest peak in the coming days as a fair weather window has opened.
This year, which marks the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's maiden Everest summit, has been marred by a brawl that broke out between European climbers and Nepalese Sherpas high on the mountain in April.


Kuwait launches sports clubs for women

Photo Credit: www.thejakartapost.com
As part of a new initiative launching sports leagues for women, al-Shatti and her teammates from Salwa Al-Sabah club downed Qadsiya club 63-13 in a game that attracted several hundred men and female fans. The initiative to launch basketball, table tennis and athletic leagues for the first time in Kuwait illustrates how the landscape for women athletes is improving across the Persian Gulf where hard-liners have long opposed women playing sports.
Several of the players, in deference to the conservative Muslim culture that is common across the Persian Gulf, wore leggings and covered their heads with hijab. Others, however, wore shorts and T-shirts.
"A competition like this should have happened a long time ago," said al-Shatti, who has played in tournaments overseas and only heard about the league in her home country while playing in neighboring Bahrain. "But I am glad it finally took place. We've been trying to do this for a long time and they have promised that more sports will be included in future leagues."
Helped by government support, increased education and erosion of traditional values, football leagues for girls in the Gulf have started up in Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia - which long barred girls from playing any sports - recently announced it would allow sports in private schools as long as they abide by the rules of Shariah, or Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia's decision is part of a wider package of reforms targeting women with the aim of ending discriminatory practices that have contributed to a host of health problems, including obesity and diabetes. The private schools' announcement also follows a decision last year in the kingdom to allow two female athletes to compete in the London Olympic Games following months of intense pressure from the International Olympics Committee.
Still, women's sports remain nearly an underground activity in the kingdom, which is home to Islam's holiest site in Mecca. Only the largest female university in the kingdom - Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University - has a swimming pool, tennis court and exercise area for its students. No other university in Saudi Arabia has sports facilities for female students and staff.
Women are also bound by strict rules when it comes to their attire, so they cannot, for example, be seen by men while jogging in sweat pants. Female athletes cannot register for sports clubs or league competitions. They are banned from entering national trials, making it impossible for them to qualify for international competitions.
Kuwait is typical of the struggle women have endured in the Gulf.
The 1970s were described as the golden era where women were allowed to freely participate in sports in Kuwait, according to Naeema al-Sabah, the head of the Women's Sports Federation. But in the ensuing decades, the influence of Islamic hard-liners grew in the country and sports for women all but disappeared. Hard-liners believe that sports will promote immoral behavior and uniforms inappropriately reveal female bodies.
The low point came a few years back when a Kuwaiti women's football team was publicly denounced after returning from playing a regional tournament in neighboring United Arab Emirates.
"We're taking baby steps toward progress," al-Sabah said. "As with any society that is religiously strict, we need to test the waters and take small steps. Everyone in Kuwait now values sports. You see people walking and jogging every day. There is this increasing interest in playing sports in general."
Al-Shatti said the best sign that things are changing was the number of women and girls who turned out for the basketball game. A music teacher who also cycles and jogs with her husband, al-Shatti is only hoping to get more chances to play.
"It felt like the first step toward a better future for sports for us here in Kuwait," she said after her team's victory.


Saudi Arabia allows schoolgirls to play sport

Saudi Arabia has given girls at private schools the right to play sport, the education ministry said Sunday, in a step aimed at easing restrictions on women in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
The ministry directive published in Saudi newspapers says that private schools for girls have been told to "put into effect a number of rules to regulate sports".
The measure appears to have left out the majority of students at state schools.
The ministry has, however, requested the schools ensure girls wear "a covering and decent outfit" for sport activities in "suitable areas".
It also demanded that female Saudi coaches get the priority in employment at such facilities.
The ministry pointed out that some private schools were already offering physical education, but without any regulations to follow.
The issue of Saudi women in sport came under the spotlight during the 2012 London Olympic Games, when the Muslim kingdom bowed to pressure and sent female athletes to compete for the first time.
At that time, Human Rights Watch said that despite the participation of two Saudi women at the Olympics, millions of women in the Gulf state were still banned from sports.
Saudi women remain banned from driving, and have to cover from head to toe when in public, among other restrictions.