Saudis to allow girls to play sports in public schools

Saudi girls wear the national flag across their shoulders during celebrations marking the 83rd Saudi Arabian National Day in the desert kingdom's capital Riyadh, on September 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry says it will introduce physical education classes for girls in public schools next year, a decision that comes after years of calls by women across the kingdom demanding greater rights and access to sports.

It was only four years ago that the kingdom formally approved sports for girls in private schools. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has also approved licenses for female-only gyms. Male students have long had access to sports in public schools.

The ministry said in a statement on its website Tuesday that the courses will be introduced “gradually” in the coming academic year “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations.” The statement noted that the decision was in line with a sweeping reform plan spearheaded by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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