Compromise reached in Saudi judo row after boycott threat
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
July 31 - A compromise has been reached that will allow a Saudi Arabian athlete banned from wearing the hijab at London 2012 to compete after her father had threatened to withdraw her from the Olympics.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) have said that they allow the 16-year-old Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani to compete in something that will cover her head and mean she is not breaking Islamic law.
"The judo federation will allow her to wear something which will not compromise her safety, which I think they use for competitions in Asia," said a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Just weeks after a landmark ruling gave the green light to Muslim women footballers to wear a revolutionary Velcro-designed Islamic headscarf, the head of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Marius Vizer had said last week that Shahrkhani (pictured above, left, with her father), one of the just two female athletes sent to the Olympics by Saudi Arabia, would be prevented from doing so in her sport.
Shahrkhani is due to compete in the women's heavyweight tournament later this week and the IOC had been locked in talks with both the athlete and the IJF trying to resolve what was becoming a niggling distraction.
Saudi officials had insisted that Shahrkhani would have to obey a strict Islamic dress code in order to compete but Vizer said she would have to fight without a headscarf for safety reasons.
Her father, Ali Shahrkhani, was quoted as saying that his daughter would stand up for her rights.
"She will not compete...on August 3 if the Committee (IOC) insist that she removes her hijab," he said.
IJF spokesman Nicolas Messner insists judo moves were too dangerous to allow unauthorised headgear to be used but the compromise should see Shahrkhani compete against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica, ranked 13 in the world, in the first round of the +78kg category on Friday (August 3).
"Something could go wrong," he said.
Ironically, the decision to allow female Saudi athletes to compete at London 2012 was originally praised by IOC President Jacques Rogge.
There is almost no public tradition of Saudi women participating in international sport.
Before London 2012 Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries, alongside Brunei and Qatar, never to have sent female athletes to the Olympics but the other two confirmed earlier this year that their delegations would include women and Saudi Arabia followed suit.
July 2012: Officials confident of solving judo's London 2012 hijab controversy
July 2012: Saudi Arabia to send two women competitors to London 2012