Women-only gym closed amid reform postures in Saudi Arabia

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Sun Apr 29, 2018 07:45AM
Saudi Sports Minister Turki Al Sheikh

Saudi Arabia’s powerful sports minister has closed down a women-only gym in the capital Riyadh, blaming it for breaking the kingdom’s “moral” laws. 

The gym was closed on Friday on the orders of Turki Al Sheikh, who is a confidante of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. “We are not going to tolerate this,” tweeted Al Sheikh.

The minister was protesting the contents of a promotional video, which has emerged online of a woman in tight-fitting clothes showing viewers around the gym, arguing that the footage could “corrupt public morals.”

Sheikh ordered officials “to investigate and prosecute” those behind the making of the video reportedly shot and uploaded by Kuwaiti social media personality and TV presenter Halima Boland.

Its circulation was followed by a torrent of insults targeting both Boland and another woman appearing in the footage.

The closure of the facility comes hot on the heels of bin Salman’s efforts at portraying himself as a “reformer” and promoter of the kingdom’s image abroad.

Towards the purpose, the crown prince has introduced some changes to the country’s strict regulations, some of which target women.

Saudi women walk past jewellery shops in the Tiba gold market in the capital Riyadh on February 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The changes include allowing women to drive and enabling them to vote in municipal elections.

On Friday night, Saudi authorities made American professional wrestling a purported cultural milestone in a series of societal changes where women, for the first time, were allowed to watch men wrestle live in the ring.

Saudi authorities, however, apologized Saturday for videos with female performers shown at a pro-wrestling event, highlighting the tension the Wahhabi kingdom faces in opening up the society.

Saudi Arabia came 141 among 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, and critics describe the changes as only token reformation.

Last May, US President Donald Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia in his first visit abroad. There, his wife Melania praised Riyadh for its “empowerment of women,” apparently trying to gloss over its notoriously unfair treatment of them.

[source: Press Tv]

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