April 25, 2018

Saudi Arabia reassuring foreign investors with corruption crackdown

14 January 2018, 08:28 | Rufus Hill

Saudi men and women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh last year

Saudi men and women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh last year

The first football match women attended was a clash between Saudi Premier League clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

However, according to reports, the women were segregated in the stands from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section" at King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

One woman described it as a great experience, completely unlike watching at home.

The Saudi government said last week women would be allowed to attend a second match on Saturday and a third next Thursday.

Saudi Arabia still has a long ways to go in terms of boosting women's empowerment, but progress, no matter how slow it comes, is progress.

The move was billed as a war on rampant corruption but also widely seen by analysts as helping Prince Mohammed consolidate his grip on power after ousting his cousin as heir to the throne in the summer. These efforts are part of broader reforms he is leading to restructure the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil, temper the kingdom's religious rhetoric and provide new employment and entertainment options for the kingdom's large youth population, including women. However, glass panels were set up to separate men supporters from the women and family section of the stadium.

A hashtag, translated as "the people welcome the entry of women into stadiums", was used tens of thousands of times in two hours as the match took place.

A key initial step in the plan is the country's corruption crackdown that has led to the arrest of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, billionaire and member of the Saudi royal family, among others.

Construction teams had scrambled to build female toilets and line off a women-only parking lot ahead of the game. The kingdom's stadium had not been built with women in mind, so modifications were made so that they could attend matches. A 5-0 defeat for Al-Batin - and a victory for women in Saudi Arabia.

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