Conservative Gulf emirate Qatar held a major sporting event in which women were allowed as both spectators and athletes for the first time last Thursday. Winners of the events were featured prominently in Qatari press Friday.
University of Qatar psychologist Muza al-Malki speculates that a demand made by the ruling emir’s wife, Sheikha Muza al-Mussanad, may have prompted the event. “The participation of women in political life is not a subject for debate. It’s a legitimate right,” Mussanad told an Arabic newspaper just days before the event.
Nawal el-Moutawakel, who in 1984 became the first Moslem woman to win an Olympic gold medal, said “I can’t stress how important this is to the development of women’s sport in the Gulf region.” Women are prohibited from playing most sports in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Women in Iran have participated in some sports championships with Asian countries, thanks to the activism of Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former President Akbar Hashemei Rafsanjani.