Advocacy Group Urges Saudi Reforms

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP Photo

A New York-based human-rights group is going to bat for women in Saudi Arabia who are banned from participating in the Olympics. In a report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on the International Olympic Committee to crack down on Saudi Arabia’s national Olympic committee unless it enacted major sports reforms for women. The advocacy group said the Saudi committee should be disqualified from this summer’s London Olympics if it fails to include a female athlete, and that condemned its “effective ban” on women competing at a national level as systematic discrimination. Speaking with The New York Times about the report, a senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch called Saudi Arabia “a black eye to the sporting committee.” Saudi Arabia is one of three Olympic nations that has never sent a woman to the Games. The other two are Qatar and Brunei, though they have sent female athletes to other sports competitions like the Islamic women’s Games and the Asian Games.