RIYADH - Private Saudi girls' high schools are being investigated by the education ministry for holding an "illegal" sports tournament, the Arab News reported Tuesday.
The groundbreaking December 8 event involving 200 females from six Jeddah private high schools broke ministry rules against girls' sports in schools, a ministry official told the newspaper.
"We don't have any regulations that say that it's okay for girls' schools to hold sports classes or training," said Ahmed Al-Zahrani, director of girls' education in Jeddah.
"This tournament was held by these schools, something that has now led us to know about their illegal activities," he said.
Women's access to sports overall is tightly constricted in Saudi Arabia, which is governed according to an ultra-strict version of Islam. Women cannot participate in the Saudi Olympics team, and are not allowed to attend public football matches.
While a few women-only private clubs and private women's universities offer sporting possibilities, sports are prohibited at primary and secondary schools for girls.
The tournament was hosted by the private Effat University and included basketball, badminton, swimming and athletics.
"I was surprised to receive a letter from the Ministry of Education questioning me about the competition and the reason why it was held in the first place," Farida Farsi, chairwoman of Al-Hamra Schools, told Arab News.
"I also received a huge number of letters and telephone calls from conservative Saudi men and sheikhs who said that I should've known better and advised me not to hold such competitions in the future because itís not lady-like," she said