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Saudi ambassador counters tennis legends' criticism, highlights women's advancements

Posted : 31 January 2024

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington expressed disappointment over criticism from tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova regarding Saudi money in the sport. Evert and Navratilova, in an opinion column, urged the Women's Tennis Association to reconsider staging the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia due to concerns about gender inequality and human rights issues.


The ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, responded on social media, highlighting recent advancements for women in Saudi Arabia and criticizing the retired players for turning their backs on those they inspired.


Princess Reema noted that under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on women driving, abolished gender segregation rules, and eliminated the mandatory wearing of abaya robes.


Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassador to the U.S. - POLITICO


She highlighted women's increasing participation in businesses, stating that they own over 300,000 businesses, constituting around 25% of small and mid-size start-ups, comparable to the US. However, human rights campaigners raised concerns about the depth of these reforms, pointing out ongoing arrests targeting government critics.


The ambassador defended Saudi Arabia's sports initiatives as part of the Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda. She emphasized that the efforts aim to be the best version of the country and are not a distraction from human rights issues.


 Saudi Arabia has hosted various sports events, including its first ATP Tour event and exhibition matches featuring top tennis players. The kingdom has also attracted star footballers, hosts F1 and heavyweight boxing, and is in talks to play a prominent role in world golf, in addition to preparing for the 2034 World Cup.


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