Stevnsgade BBK (Dameligaen) agreed terms with 22-year old naturalized Saudi Arabian guard Hanna Sheikh (180-92). She has played for the last six seasons at Vaerlose BBK in Dameligaen. However her team was relegated to 1st Division. In 21 Dameligaen games she had 8.6ppg and 3 [read more]
Stevnsgade BBK (Dameligaen) agreed terms with 22-year old naturalized Saudi Arabian guard Hanna Sheikh (180-92). She has played for the last six seasons at Vaerlose BBK in Dameligaen. In 21 Dameligaen games she had 8.6ppg and 3.3rpg last season. Sheikh's team made it to the Dameligaen Semifinals in 2013. She represented Denmark at the European Championships U18 Division B for Women in Timisoara (Romania) four years ago. Her stats at that event were 7 games: 2.7ppg, 1.4rpg.
The image of 24-year-old Nour Fitiany resting courtside as the pounding of basketballs and thumping of feet reverberated around her wouldnt merit a second glance in most countries.
But in Saudi Arabia, where girls are banned from sports in state schools, powerful clerics castigate women for exercising and female gyms must adhere to strict regulations, Fitianys ambition to play basketball let alone represent her country in international tournaments is a bold political statement [read more]
The image of 24-year-old Nour Fitiany resting courtside as the pounding of basketballs and thumping of feet reverberated around her wouldnt merit a second glance in most countries. But in Saudi Arabia, where girls are banned from sports in state schools, powerful clerics castigate women for exercising and female gyms must adhere to strict regulations, Fitianys ambition to play basketball let alone represent her country in international tournaments is a bold political statement. I hope that when they see that there are girls who really want to play, and who do play regardless of the obstacles that lie in their path, they realize that they have to do something, she said, dressed in a baby blue t-shirt and grey jogging pants, spinning a basketball on her index finger. Female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue in the conservative Islamic kingdom, which on February 15 was lambasted by Human Rights Watch for never having sent a woman athlete to the Olympics. The stance of the official Supreme Council of Religious Scholars is represented by Sheikh Abdullah al-Maneea, who said in 2009 that the excessive movement and jumping needed in football and basketball might cause girls to tear their hymens and lose their virginity. After King Abdullah moved last year to bring women into the country's political process, however, there have been some signs authorities may allow sportswomen to compete internationally and make it easier for girls to exercise. The HRW report said the National Olympic committee had 'indicated' it would not stop women athletes taking part in the Games if they were invited, and speculation has been rife that the government will send equestrian Dalma Malhas to compete in this years Olympics in London. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority told Reuters earlier this year there are plans to introduce after-hours physical education classes for both girls and boys. The kingdom's official sporting body, the Saudi General Presidency of Youth Welfare, did not respond to Reuters questions on the issue.
JUST FOR MALES
Sports in the patriarchal society of Saudi Arabia has long been reserved as an activity for men. Even stadiums for watching sports prohibit females to be present. Women are able to play in the privacy of their homes or in private schools but as soon as they step beyond that to play professionally or in organized teams in public competitions they are publicly slammed for going against their natural role. Newspaper articles that refer to such women as 'shameless' when they play sports are a cause of great embarrassment for the women and their families. Some have even received text messages advising them to stay at home and tend to their household duties as mothers and wives. 'If there is no support from the family we can not get into these types of activities ... some people are extremist or extra conservative,' said Hadeer Sadagah, 17, who plays with Fitiany on their basketball team, Jeddah United. Jeddah United was set up in 2003 to promote women's fitness; Malhas, who specializes in show jumping, trained privately and has competed in international tournaments since she was young. A group of Saudi women is also planning a hiking expedition to Everest base camp this summer as part of a charity fundraising exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle for breast cancer patients. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the king who is known to be a supporter of women's rights, has included women in his Kingdom Equestrian Team, part of his company Kingdom Holding, which has allowed Saudi women to compete in international competitions since 2007. Liberal Saudis consider women who participate in sports to be pioneers and encourage the women to play regardless of the obstacles. 'We have a very famous Arabic saying that goes, 'a healthy brain needs a healthy body' so from that I believe that people who are against women's sports are actually against women,' Jeddah resident Hashim Larry, 27, told Reuters. 'They come from the same group of 'don't allow women to work and drive'.'
The pressure against women in sports is intense and comes from senior figures in a clerical establishment that is closely allied to the ruling al-Saud family. In 2010 Sheikh Abdulkareem al-Khudair, who also sits on the Supreme Council for Religious Scholars, renewed a religious edict banning sports for women, which he said 'will lead to following in the footsteps of the devil.' He said it is not permitted to request that the government introduce sports in schools for girls because such activity is forbidden in Islam. Such comments from a high ranking cleric have immense influence in the monarchy, which rules in alliance with the conservative clerics. When Jeddah United returned from a tournament in which they played the Jordanian national team, in 2009, a local newspaper published their photograph under the headline: 'Shameless girls.' The religious pressure is so great that even female gyms have to wear a non-sporting fig leaf, masquerading as 'health centers' that are regulated not by a national sports body but by the Health Ministry. Fees are so high, at a minimum of 1,000 riyals ($266) a month, that only the affluent can afford membership. In 2009 a clampdown on unlicensed female gyms gave rise to a women's rights campaign in newspapers and blogs, with the sarcastic slogan 'Let her get fat!' 'As a nation we need to focus on preventative measures that include healthy lifestyle, specifically nutrition and fitness and early detection (of women's illnesses),' said Princess Reema al-Saud, who is leading the climb to Everest base camp. 'The inspiration to climb Everest base camp came from the basic idea that a healthy lifestyle and healthy body can fight illness better,' she added.
The lack of facilities for women is a significant barrier in a country where gender segregation is strictly enforced. While girls' state schools are barred from teaching physical education and consequently have no sports facilities, some private schools and private universities are very well equipped. Jeddah United practices in one of the few courts available for women, surrounded by 5-meter (16-foot) concrete walls, which it rents for 7,000 to 10,000 riyals a month. Members get training and the opportunity to play three times a week for a monthly fee of 600 riyals. 'We believe that (Jeddah United) is a pressure group to promote a healthy lifestyle on a local level and on an international level,' said the team's founder, Lina al-Maeena. 'We play a role of sport diplomacy by building bridges and breaking stereotypes of Saudi women. I hope that we are paving the way.' Malhas, the equestrian who might yet be selected to represent the kingdom in London, trained in exclusively private facilities in Saudi Arabia. She has already competed in international tournaments, which she travelled to by herself, financed not by the state but by her own family. In the Singapore Youth Olympics in 2010 she stood on the podium to receive a bronze medal, although she was not officially delegated to represent the kingdom. 'I think women playing sports should ignore the criticisms they get from society,' Fitiany said. 'That is a kind of struggle, standing strong and not caring what people say.'
The players bounded into the gym, shedding their long black cloaks and veils to take to the basketball court. Up this night: Jeddah United against the Jaguars, as 30 women spectators hooted and hollered from the stands.
Such is the start of women's sports in Saudi Arabia a Muslim country so conservative that the fledgling women's sports teams that have begun to appear in recent years remain almost entirely underground, far from public scrutiny or religious clerics' eyes. [read more]
The players bounded into the gym, shedding their long black cloaks and veils to take to the basketball court. Up this night: Jeddah United against the Jaguars, as 30 women spectators hooted and hollered from the stands. Such is the start of women's sports in Saudi Arabia a Muslim country so conservative that the fledgling women's sports teams that have begun to appear in recent years remain almost entirely underground, far from public scrutiny or religious clerics' eyes. 'One day we're going to look back on such events and hopefully say, 'Wow, we've gone a long way,'' said Lina al-Maeena, the founder and team captain of Jeddah United. 'Future generations won't have to start from zero.' It is a far cry from Title IX, the landmark 1972 U.S. anti-discrimination law that spearheaded women's equal treatment in sports at a time when the women's rights movement was gathering steam across the West. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive or vote and have few legal rights. The restrictions stem from the strict version of Islam the kingdom follows. Many conservative adherents believe that women's emancipation will lead to decadence and a dissipation of Islamic values. For these religious conservatives, keeping the sexes segregated and maintaining male guardianship over women is not enough. They want to ban anything they believe might encourage women to abandon conservative Muslim values. Because of the influence conservative clerics have on government and society, sports and physical education classes are banned in state-run girls' schools. Women's games and marathons are canceled when the powerful clergy get wind of them, and female athletes are not allowed to participate in the Olympics. Despite such obstacles, Saudi women have quietly been forming soccer, basketball, volleyball and other teams throughout the kingdom in the past few years. Some operate under schools and universities, others are under the umbrella of charities. A few, like Jeddah United and the Jaguars, are independent. The teams have none of the privileges that men's leagues which have existed for decades enjoy. They're not part of the General Presidency for Youth Welfare, the federation that oversees sports. They find it hard to get corporate sponsorship. They don't have proper facilities where they can train, or even certified referees. And they are not allowed to participate in international competitions. And while men's games are broadcast on TV and take place in huge stadiums, women rarely advertise their games or even talk openly about them for fear the clergy will stop them. That makes it difficult for them to reach spectators from outside their immediate circle of friends and family. And teams in one city often do not know that teams in another exist. In March, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik, the kingdom's mufti, or senior cleric, told Okaz newspaper he had ordered a university in the capital, Riyadh, to cancel a women's marathon. Last year, clerics barred a women's soccer game in the Eastern Province. Abdul-Kareem al-Khudayr, a professor at Imam University, wrote on al-Muslim website that introducing physical education classes for girls at government schools would be tantamount to 'following in the devil's footsteps' an argument conservative clerics make to highlight the corrupting influence of women's sports. That attitude is one reason why the rate of obesity among Saudi women is higher than among men, health care officials say. About 52% of Saudi men and 66% of women are either obese or overweight, according to Saudi press reports. The women playing basketball on a recent night last week were conscious of the controversies. Al-Maeena, 29, stressed that her efforts to promote sports are aimed at combating such 'social ills' as obesity, osteoporosis and depression, and providing healthy alternatives for women, who spend their time shopping a
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