Saudi Arabia, considered one of the most repressive countries in the world for women, is picking up pace in resorting to progressive reforms. Winds of change are finally blowing in the Arabian Kingdom, too. As per reports by the BBC, for the first time, the country held a women’s cycling race on Tuesday, April 10.
Women cyclists participated in the race organised in the city of Jeddah. The female cyclists not only surprised the conservative nation but also the world of social media. A total of 47 women competed in the 10-kilometre race. The “Be Active” group organised the path-breaking race and brought together local authorities and women cyclists.
Nadima Abu al-Enein, the race organiser, was surprised by the good number of cyclists who turned up.
“The large participant turnout prompted the organizing committee to increase the allowed number of participants from 30 to 47 girls. However, the committee was still forced to exclude numerous others who hoped to participate,” she said.
Abu al-Enein founded the bicycle club last year. She used the power of social media to recruit fellow Saudi female cycling enthusiasts. Social media also helped her raise awareness about cycling for both Saudi women and the wider population.
In an interview with Cycling Today, she spoke about the difficulties she and her fellow riders faced while riding in the country. She is hopeful that the number of women cyclists will grow over time.
The country, in 2013, permitted women to ride bicycles in recreational areas, provided they dress up modestly and are in the company of male guardians during tier rides.
While there was immense support pouring over social media, as usual some twitterati reacted negatively
Here are some tweets concerning this historic move:
47 women compete in 10k cycling race in Saudi Arabia despite opposition like this –
“A woman can be seductive and getting on a bicycle reveals all her attractive parts to men. If she wants to ride a bike she must do that by herself and not in public."https://t.co/CwCtkltPgT
— Laura Winter (@lauracwinter) April 13, 2018
Another user said women sports are needed, “but within limits and not in front of men”.
@p9p___ said the event “looks like so much fun.”
@foof_foofa praised the event. “We don’t care about your objections,” she tweeted.
@N9n9Ta replied to critics of the race: “In five years or 10 or 20, the women who are criticizing the event on social media are going to take part in similar races or will attend them and cheer on those racing. Just like they did with mobile phones, televisions, schools, nursing, medicine… They’ll look back and be embarrassed by the way they reacted.”