Rice. Girl power
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday she hoped to one day see Saudi women competing in the Olympic Games.
"I think Saudi women ought to be able to participate. I've said they ought to be able to vote. And I think that when women can vote and are empowered you'll see them in the Games," she told NBC's Meet the Press.
She said many countries with predominantly Muslim populations, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, were now allowing women to compete in athletic competitions. "Certainly I look forward to the day that there's a Saudi woman athlete in that parade," Rice said, referring to the opening parade for the Olympic Games.
There are no women on the Saudi team competing at the 2008 Games in Beijing and the director of the country's sprint team, Hadi Souan Somayli, told the BBC recently: "Some events are difficult for us, with the clothes. Events like track and field, swimming, even football."
Women in the oil-rich ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom of Saudi Arabia are forced to cover from head to toe in public, and can not travel without written permission from a male guardian. Sports for girls are banned in public schools, and women face a host of restrictions, including a prohibition against driving.
Earlier this year Human Rights Watch urged Saudi Arabia to abolish the system that bars women from working, traveling, marrying or accessing healthcare without the consent of a male guardian.