Saudi Arabia: The 'No Women. No Play' campaign on status of women in Kingdom

Institute for Gulf Affairs

The Hadi al-Mutif Program for Human Rights at the Institute for Gulf Affairs is launching a multi-year international campaign this week to raise awareness on the status of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst violators of women’s rights, as the state declares women legally inferior to men. 

Saudi women are considered incapable of managing their own affairs, requiring male permission before receiving emergency medical treatment, traveling, or leaving the home.  Moreover, women are not permitted to drive, vote, attend schools for “male specific” fields, or participate in sports.      

The campaign, entitled No Women. No Play., aims to illuminate the dire condition of women in the Kingdom by focusing on one area of state-sponsored gender discrimination – the Monarchy’s refusal to permit female participation in sports.  The Saudi regime strongly forbids female athletic activity and bans girls from school physical education programs.  Currently, the Saudi Monarchy prohibits women athletes from participating in the International Olympics Games, which serves as a global platform to promote the universal human values of peace, equality, and societal harmony.     

According to the official Olympic Charter, “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”  By proscribing female participation in the Olympics, Saudi Arabia upholds its policy of gender apartheid and blatantly violates the Olympic Charter.  Because Saudi Arabia egregiously violates a fundamental principle of the Olympic Movement, the No Women. No Play. campaign seeks to ban Saudi Arabia from participating in the 2012 Olympics, and subsequently from all international sporting competitions – unless the Monarchy reverses its appalling gender policies.

This campaign hopes to empower women in Saudi society and pressure the Saudi Monarchy to end its practice of gender apartheid.  While women have become increasingly incorporated in Olympic Events, Saudi Arabia remains one of the few countries that deny their participation.  The International Olympic Movement, as a bastion for human dignity and equality, is a powerful institution capable of positively influencing the conditions of people throughout the world.  In 1964, the IOC banned South Africa from the Olympics based on its policy of racial apartheid, playing an instrumental role in challenging the country’s discriminatory policies.   No Women. No Play. calls on the IOC and its members to uphold the Olympic charter and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its flagrant abuses of women’s rights.      

The No Women. No Play. campaign kicks off this Saturday in Washington DC’s DuPont Circle at 2:00 PM in a public event featuring speakers and musical performances.

The Hadi al-Mutif Program for Human Rights is named after the longest-held religious prisoner in the world. Hadi al-Mutif is a Saudi citizen belonging to the Shi’a religious minority who has been imprisoned by the Saudi Monarchy for 17 years. Incarcerated for practicing his faith, Hadi is one of several religious prisoners currently held in Saudi prisons deprived of freedom.    

July 27, 2010  

The Institute for Gulf Affairs

1900 L Street, NW Suite 309

Washington DC, 20036

T: 202-466-9500

Email: nowomennoplay[at]  

Contact: Anum Khan (202) 466-9500