Saudi Arabia: Kingdom's First Female Olympic Athletes Called ‘Prostitutes’

This is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Saudi Arabia will be sending two female athletes to the 2012 London Olympics, which officially begin tomorrow (July 27). Wojdan Shaherkani (Judo) and Sarah Attar (athletics) will be the first two women to ever represent the kingdom, where conservative religious clerics forbid the participation of women in competitive sports.

On Twitter, their anticipated involvement in the games set off a flurry of reactions, including a hash tag which described them as the “Prostitutes of the Olympics.”

Saudi Arabia's earlier announcement that women would be excluded from London 2012 was faced with a call for banning the kingdom from the Olympics.

The two Saudi women taking part in the London Olympics

The two Saudi women taking part in the London Olympics. Photo from the official delegation page on

The participation of women under the Saudi flag comes under conditions: that they would not compete in mixed games and that they would dress up conservatively, among others.

On Twitter, Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran shares the line up of athletes representing his country at the Olympics and quips:

@Ahmed: List of Saudi athletes who will compete in London Olympics. Interestingly, Sarah Attar appears without a headscarf …

On his own blog, Al Omran further elaborates:

To appease the clerics, Saudi most senior sports official Prince Nawaf bin Faisal announced a set of rules for women’s participation at the Olympics. Athletes can only take part if they do so “wearing suitable clothing that complies with sharia” and “the athlete’s guardian agrees and attends with her,” he told local daily al-Jazirah. “There must also be no mixing with men during the Games,” he added.

On Twitter, a Saudi Twitter user allegedly called Sultan Al Hilali spread the hash tag #عاهرات_الاولمبياد which translates to The Prostitutes of the Olympics, reportedly in reference to the Saudi athletes taking part in the games. The hash tag got many angry responses, as well as a few in its support.

Aljohara responds:

#عاهرات_الاولمبياد‬‏ تذكرونني بأوربا العصور المظلمة, تشتمون هذا و تقذفون تلك باسم الدين. الدين براء منكم.
@SkittlesFairy: You remind me of Europe in the Dark Ages; you insult this and slur that person in the name of religion. This religion has nothing to do with you.
Screenshot of the tweet which called Saudi female athletes prostitutes

Screenshot of the tweet which called Saudi female athletes prostitutes

Rasha Al Dowasi adds:

المسلمات من شتى الدول الاسلامية يشاركن في الاولمبياد منذ سنين..لكن لا تكون الرياضة عهر إلا اذا مارستها سعودية؟ ‎‫#عاهرات_الاولمبياد‬‏
@Rsha_D: Muslim athletes from Muslim countries have been participating in the Olympics for years. Sport only becomes prostitution when Saudi women practices it

Many netizens also called for the prosecution of the Twitter user who came up with the hash tag. A screen shot of the tweet which calls the women taking part in the games as prostitutes is making the rounds online. The aim is to name and shame the person behind the hash tag.

Saudi blogger Eman Al Najfan shares her thoughts on Saudi women and the Olympics here and here. The two articles are also cross-posted in The Guardian.

Other countries sending female athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time are neighbouring Qatar and Brunei.

This is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.


  • Tafline Laylin

    I salute these two women for their achievements and courage. As for the twitter man, he’s probably a jealous coward who has never walked 5 miles in his life. I hope his own country condemns his terrible sportsmanship.

  • Thank you for writing and sharing this.

  • Hi
    Amira, Thank you for writing and sharing this. I personally think this
    hash tag should not be used. The more people use it even if they are
    condemning it, the more it is validated and endorsed. I have started a
    new twitter hash tag and hoping anyone who wants to say something
    positive on Saudi women’s participation in the Olympics to use it


    it translates to “The Saudi Olympics heroines”.

    Thank you again for sharing this.



  • […] Athletes Called ‘Prostitutes' Use #بطلات_الاولمبياد_السعوديات… via @globalvoices […]

  • […] Kingdom’s First Female Olympic Athletes Called ‘Prostitutes’ […]

  • Born-in-january-24

    ليتذكر من رمى الطاهرات بالعهر ان لديه اخوات وامهات وربما بنات وقال ص ( ان الرجل يقول الكلمة لايلقي لها بالا فتهوي به في النار سبعين خريفا) والمسلم علي المسلم حرام دمه وماله وعرضه نقول للي قالوها لبنات الناس العفيفات. ( الايام دول والحرب سجال) لا اعرف كيف يستهين البعض باعراض خلق الله عيب عيب يا الضبان يا التماسيح

  • Abeero55

    Thank you for writing this . Honestly, not all Saudi men like him , there are a lot of men who support them , and we’re all going to cheer for them

  • […] clerics denounce women for exercising, saying it goes against their natural role. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • […] There has been criticism as well, as this post by Amira Al Hussaini on the online portal Global Voices points out, but I would like to think that these people are a small, vocal minority (this is a great update […]

  • There seem quite a few combat sports where dress codes should satisfy the religious commands to dress modestly. Sword fighting disciplines even require face covering. The world saw reform Judaeism back in the 1800s. Surely it’s time for  “Reform Islam”. In the meantime Saudi needs women’s sports associations, and for that matter non governments amateur sports associations of any description.

    • Bomb-flower-bb

      Well, dont insert religion to reach some of your personal views …

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