News outlets around the world reported today about Saudi Arabian runner Sarah Attar at the Olympics. Sarah, with dual U.S. and Saudi Arabian citizenship, competed in the women’s 800-meter race for Saudi Arabia. She received a standing ovation as she crossed the finish line, finishing more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor.
Sarah has reportedly has spent little time in Saudi Arabia. She was born and raised in California, graduated from an American high school and attends Pepperdine University where she is a member of their track team. She and another young woman named Wojdan Shaherkani were the first women to ever represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics.
After several months of pressure by the International Olympic Committee including the threat of banning Saudi Arabia from the games if they did not allow women participants, the Saudi Olympic Committee overturned a ban on women athletes. They demanded however that all female competitors be dressed “to preserve their dignity” which meant both competitors wore long-sleeved garments and a hijab to cover their hair. The rules regarding headscarves had to be revised to allow Shaherkani to participate because they had been previously banned in judo. Prior to Attar’s Olympic debut, Pepperdine University received a request to remove photos of Attar from an online biography because they showed her in shorts, a tank top and without the Saudi required hijab.
Some reported the presence of the women athletes as a win in the “war for women in their home country,” but others do not believe the presence of the two women will change anything in the strict shariah adherent nation.
The presence of the women at the games brought condemnation from Saudi religious scholars and others. The state owned press barely mentioned their participation, and the Twitter conversations about them has been quite hostile referring to them as “prostitutes.”
Sarah Attar is fortunate in that she will return to the United States, but Wojdan Shaherkani returns to a nation that according to a Human Rights Watch report has one of the worst records regarding women’s rights in the world.
She returns to a nation where women are not allowed to play in official sports clubs or even go to a stadium and watch matches. Only private schools are allowed to provide physical education for women.
Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian, typically her father or husband who makes decisions on her behalf. This places women in a permanent state of being treated like a legal minor who is entitled to little authority over her own life. Women must have her guardian’s permission to leave her home, seek medical care and even make decisions regarding her own children. As adults, women are not allowed to drive a car and have been arrested and jailed for defying a ban on driving.
At a time when politicians and lobbying groups are debating the prohibition of foreign laws in American courts, the lives of these two women clearly show why it is necessary for the protection of future generations of women to preserve the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
PRAYER FOR FAMILY:
- Pray for Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani. There have been comments made on social media disassociating Wojdan from being Muslim. Pray that there is no backlash against either woman after the Olympics.
- Pray for those in Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations who have spoken out in support of these young women and for reforms in nations such as Saudi Arabia.
- Pray that men and women around the world will see the stark contrast between the lives of these two young women – one born in a nation of western culture and laws and another born in bondage to shariah law.
- Pray that Muslim women around the world suffering under the oppressive system of shariah laws will be set free physically, mentally and spiritually.