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.


  • […] Written by Amira Al Hussaini […]

  • […] Saudi Arabia: Kingdom’s First Female Olympic Athletes Called ‘Prostitutes’ · Global Voices […]

  • J Alrummayyan

    Thank you for writing this article, though it would’ve been better if you asked for my permission to use my tweet.
    All in all, this is a good article and those who go around calling women prostitutes when they’re doing. Absolutely nothing wrong need to re-evaluate their lives.
    – Aljohara.

    • Lalatoo

      Sorry J, they do not need to ask your permission to use your tweet. You wrote something publicly and your tweets and not protected. If you don’t want your words to be used, don’t write them publicly – instead protect your twitter account (which I wouldn’t recommend). Be proud of what you said, its the right thing to say and feel.

      • J

        I do realize that, but I jut said a notification would’ve been nice. I am not angry they used it or anything.

  • […] could be expected in a country where women are banned from driving, there was a vicious backlash following the announcement. Ms Attar and Ms Shahrkhani were referred to as the “prostitutes […]

  • Macook123


  • Devil-bubble

    Most of the comments that included in this hash tag were post by uneducated, suppressed people 

    And the are defiantly not the majority here in Saudi Arabia

    Those women are proudly represent our country and our nation

    Thanks girls and wish you all the best

    Go Saudi Go 


  • hms84

    God help those ladies, I hope they get the gold medal to shut up all those box minded!

    Hatim, Saudi Arabia

  • Ngood

    I’m Saudi girl , and I support these women’s ,, most people in Saudi support them 2 .. Allah be with them and Im proud !

  • Maha.

    It’s sad.. really sad. He insulted those ladies because he couldn’t reach what they reached. They’re the first saudi athletes women participating in the Olympics, and he is just a loser who’s wasting his time insulting people. He doesn’t represent us of course. Many men and women are supporting them. 
    Thank you for writing this article. 

  • Abdullah Alharbi

    Thank you for writing this article. As for the man who started this hash tag, I think he regrets it. Shamefully, most of men, here in KSA, agree with Sultan al Hilali. I’m sorry to say this, but the Saudi way of thinking is killing us in every way possible.

    • Saleh

      Come one !!! Are you serious ?? be fear

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