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Headscarf may bar Saudi woman from Olympics judo competition

Headscarf may bar Saudi woman from Olympics judo competition
Olympics

POSTED: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 12:45pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 12:49pm

One of the two women on Saudi Arabia's Olympic team may be pulled from the competition because of the kingdom's insistence that she wear a headscarf in her judo matches.

Saudi and international Olympic officials met late into the night with International Judo Federation representatives to resolve the case of Wojdan Shaherkani, the Saudi Olympic committee said Monday.

The meeting failed to break the deadlock that threatens to keep the kingdom's only female judo competitor from participating Friday, Saudi National Olympic Committee representative Razen Baker said.

"There is nothing to say it is finalized yet," she said. "She is here, and we want her to compete."

Shaherkani has signed an agreement with Saudi Olympics officials that she can compete only if she wears "correct and approved" clothing that "sticks to Islamic principles," Baker said.

This year is the first time every nation competing in the Olympics is sending women as well as men. Saudi Arabia was the last country to announce that it would send female athletes.

But the controversy over Shaherkani's headscarf could prompt the judo competitor to pull out.

Her father, Ali, is adamant that he will not let his daughter compete if she must remove her hijab, he told the Saudi newspaper Al Watan on Monday.

He blamed the International Judo Federation for the ruling. The IJF and International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to questions about the issue.

Shaherkani, 16, is scheduled to compete Friday. Her photo on the Saudi team's Olympics website shows her with a scarf that covers her hair but not her face.

If she withdraws from the Olympic Games, it will be a "joint decision" between her and Saudi Olympics officials, Baker said.

Middle distance runner Sarah Attar is the only other woman on the 19-member Saudi team. 

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