Agreement reached over Saudi judoka hijab dispute

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 22:50

London: A female judo athlete from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete in the Olympics wearing a form of headscarf after a compromise was reached that respects "cultural sensitivities" in the Muslim kingdom, the IOC said on Tuesrday.

Judo officials had previously said they would not let Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani compete in a headscarf because it was against the principles of the sport and raised safety concerns.

But an agreement was reached after several days of IOC-brokered talks between the international judo federation and the Saudi Olympic Committee that clears the way for her to compete Friday in the women`s heavyweight division.

"They have a solution that works for both parties, all parties involved," International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said. "The athlete will compete."

Saudi Arabia, which had never sent women athletes to the Olympics before, brought its two first female Olympians to London on condition they adhere to the kingdom`s conservative Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.

Shahrkhani`s participation was thrown into doubt last week when judo officials said a headscarf could be dangerous because the sport includes chokeholds and aggressive grabbing techniques.

Without giving precise details of the headscarf agreement, Adams said it is in line with rules of judo in Asia and is "safety compliant but allows for cultural sensitivity.`"

"In Asia, judo is a common practice so they asked for something that would be compliant with that, and the judo federations have reached a compromise that both are happy with," he said.

Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the headscarf, known as a hijab, during major competitions. Headscarves are allowed in taekwondo, but taekwondo fighters also wear a headguard, which covers the headscarf.


First Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 22:50
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