Attar and Shahrkhani appear as first Saudi women in Olympic competition
Despite finishing more than a minute behind her competitors, Attar still struck a huge blow in fight for women’s empowerment within the Saudi state.
The event was the 800m race and despite finishing dead last in the event, Attar received a standing ovation from spectators as she crossed the finish line. Attar finished the event in 2 minutes and 44.95 seconds, but to the 19-year-old Saudi her finishing time was of no concern.
Attar’s mother is American and her father is of Saudi decent. She has dual-citizenship and chose to represent Saudi Arabia in an effort to inspire women.
In addition to Attar, Saudi Arabia included another woman into their previously male-only roster with Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo. She was defeated by Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica in the women’s 78kg judo event on day 7 of the Olympic Games. Unfortunately for her, the life changing event was still met with harsh criticism from male Saudis who said she had dishonored herself as she fought in front of men, including judges and referees.
In Saudi Arabia women are under close watch of the kingdom’s religious police. They are never allowed to travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian, were only recently given the right to vote, and are able to drive, but according to strict religious edicts many abstain.
Despite the restrictive world these women come from, their presence in the Olympic competitions was a huge event for women around the world and life-changing for the two women from the Saudi Kingdom.