Saudi judo player “will not compete” without headscarf (Saudi Arabia)

Posted on July 30, 2012



Saudi Arabia’s female athletes took up the back during the opening ceremony in London.

In a statement that could dampen the push for Saudi Arabia accepting female athletes to compete in the London Olympic, judo player Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani said she would withdraw from her competition if she is not allowed to wear her headscarf.

She to compete in the +78kg judo category on Friday.

Saudi officials had said earlier this month that its female athletes would obey “Islamic dress codes” while competing in London.

But last week, International Judo Federation (IJF) president Marius Vizer said Shaherkani would have to fight without a headscarf to comply with “the principle and spirit of judo.”

Sunday’s edition of Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan newspaper quoted the father, Ali Shaherkani, as saying via telephone from Britain that his daughter “will not compete in the Judo Games on August 3 if the committee insists that she removes her hijab.”

IJF spokesman Nicolas Messner said it was also due to safety concerns.

“In judo we use strangleholds and chokeholds so the hijab could be dangerous,” Messner said.

He added that the martial art has no inclination to support or antagonism any religion and judges are only looking at the safety and integrity of the sport,” added Messner.

But it does not fit with previous competitions elsewhere in the world, where Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the hijab during major competitions.

“The only difference between competitors should be their level of judo,” he said, explaining that the grappling and throwing sport aims to be nonpolitical.

Saudi government officials only allowed women to participate in the Olympics if they were to be allowed to wear “appropriate” clothing. The move by the judo advisory board could mean at least one of the Saudi women in London might not even participate.

Shahrkhani has never fought at the international level before and has mostly been coached by her father, a judo referee.