Saudi Arabia: Launch of women’s football league should not distract from abysmal human rights situation

Responding to reports that Saudi Arabia is to launch a Women’s Football League, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

“The launch of a women’s football league in Saudi Arabia is no doubt a step that will be welcomed by Saudi citizens - but as with other reforms relating to women in the Kingdom, it is also a painful reminder of the abysmal situation for the very women and men who have fought for such change.

“In recent months, Saudi Arabia has worked hard at ‘sportswashing’ its reputation – trying to use the glamour of sport as a public relations tool to improve its international image, particularly following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“This drive to improve the overall situation of women in Saudi Arabia can only be welcomed when it goes hand-in-hand with the inclusion of the brave individuals who fought for decades for this change. Instead, they are still locked up and undergoing trials as a form of repression, while those responsible for their torture in detention remain free.

“If Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was genuine about women’s rights, he would immediately and unconditionally release all those still detained for their peaceful human rights work.”

Background

The Saudi Sports For All Federation today announced the creation of the Women’s Football League, stating it would “bolster women's participation in sports at the community level and will generate increased recognition for women's sports achievements”.