The past few years have seen Saudi women take part in sports previously deemed off-limits to them. However, it hasn't all been positive news as some of the kingdom's cities continue to ban women from organizing or participating in sports events — even if said events are only for them, and not mixed-gender ones.
Earlier this week, Al Laith city canceled a long-delayed women-only marathon that was set to be held in the city. Speaking to Sabq news site, the region's mayor, Abdul Aziz Al Malki, explained that the reason behind the cancelation was the fact that "locals objected to the event."
"I called the marathon's organizers and they confirmed that they had to cancel the event after people rejected the idea of it being held in their city," he added.
The official didn't comment on whether similar events will be planned and held in the city later on.
News of the event's cancelation comes months after officials said it would be delayed (it was delayed for 190 days). At the time, Al Laith's municipality said the delay was due to a large number of applicants who wanted to take part in the event, 150 women to be exact. The marathon was originally planned as part of the city's Spring Festival and had been organized by a local women's organization called Takatouf (meaning "joining hands").
The move is considered a setback in that it comes at a time when Saudi women are making strides in sports both locally and internationally. It's also confusing to many given the fact that a women-only run was previously held in the kingdom for the first time in 2018. The event took place in the country's Al Ahsa and saw over 1,500 women from all across the kingdom take part.
Saudi women have been making strides in sports in the past years
Despite the setbacks and the obstacles that have stood in their way, Saudi women have broken barriers in sports and proved their achievements matter. They've also been representing the kingdom at international championships all around the world.
This month, an all-women bowling team is representing the country at the Women's World Championship in Bowling which is currently taking place in Las Vegas, U.S.
Earlier this year, Al Anoud Al Khalifi and Afnan Sabbagh became the first Saudi women to take part in the West Asia and GCC Weightlifting Championship and won a total of 12 medals at the event.
In March, the kingdom's female basketball team participated in the Special Olympics World Summer Games for the first time and scored a gold medal there too. That same month, another Saudi woman, Zahra Al-Qurashi, made history after winning the kingdom's first gold medal in kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs in Amman, Jordan.