Father of Saudi female Olympic athlete vows to act against insults
RIYADH — The father of the first ever Saudi female to compete at the Olympic Games has vowed to sue those who insulted his daughter for challenging strict traditions that prevented women from participating.
The father of Wojdan Shaherkani, who stole the limelight at the London Olympics despite lasting only 82 seconds on the mat before being defeated, told Al-Sharq daily that he wrote to the interior minister with copies of insults made on the Twitter microblogging website.
“I have sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Interior Prince Ahmed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz with copies of all attacks made on Twitter,” said Ali Seraj Shaherkani.
A lawyer has been hired to sue those who attacked his daughter, he said.
The judo international referee said he had no problem with those who criticised the performance of his teenage daughter, who despite being swiftly beaten by Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica left the stadium to a standing ovation.
It is the first time the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom sends women to the Olympics, and Shaherkani was almost kept out after the international federation for judo said she could not wear the Islamic hijab head cover.
The 16-year-old judoist eventually took part wearing a swimming cap to cover her hair, but that still did not impress Saudi conservatives who oppose relaxing constraints on women.
“You do not represent the chaste Muslim woman,” wrote Mohammed al-Barrak, a lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, on his Twitter page.
But most tweeters hailed Shaherkani’s courage. Others started a hashtag deploring racist comments on Twitter targeted at Shaherkani over her Asian origins.
“It was an honour for my daughter to participate in this competition and to have represented Saudi Arabia,” said Shaherkani’s father, adding that she will start training for the 2016 Olympics.
Apart from Shaherkani, US-raised 800m runner Sarah Attar is representing Saudi Arabia in London.
Under the strict version of Islamic sharia law that is applied in Saudi Arabia, women have to cover from head to toe when in public. They are also not allowed to drive, and mixing between the sexes is banned.