Saudi Arabia to let women enter sports stadiums in 2018

Saudi Arabia will for the first time allow women to attend sports events. Preparing special sections in three selected stadiums from early next year in another step toward opening public spaces to women.

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The stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh are being prepared to accommodate families in early 2018, said the statement. The state-run Saudi Press Agency posted late on Sunday.

An economic and social reform program led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to open up cloistered lifestyles, shaped in part by a strict, conservative version of Sunni Islam that limits the role of women.

Prince Mohammed also seeks to diversify the economy away from oil as part of his proposed reforms. The crown prince will be the first Saudi leader since 1953 to hail from a new generation when he inherits the throne; his father Salman is the sixth brother in a row to serve as king.

The kingdom adheres to an austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans gender mixing, concerts and cinemas. Women are required to receive permission from a male guardian to obtain passports or leave the country.

Prince Mohammed told businessmen and reporters at a major investment forum last week that the country would cleave to a more open and tolerant interpretation of Islam.

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