Saudi Arabia: A New Legend – Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani

She may not even realize all the implications yet at this time but there is no doubt that 16 year old Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani from Makkah, Saudi Arabia is a legend.  She may not have won a medal during the 2012 London Olympics but she will always be known as the first female Olympian direct from the Kingdom to participate as part of the official Saudi Arabian Olympic team.

She’s a young and quiet girl from Makkah who was trained in judo by her father.  She had never participated in international events yet she showed nothing but bravery and dignity when she faced her judo opponent from Puerto Rico.  She was likely not accustomed to the aggressiveness shown and displayed by other athletes in their quest for a medal.  Yet she remained determined and resolved to represent her country with dignity and grace.  

Unless one has lived in Saudi Arabia and among Saudis, it is difficult to envision the environment in which Wodjan was likely most familiar and comfortable.  She is likely more accustomed to segregation and compared to most others, a quieter life which revolved around extended family.  Yet at the same time, she and her father had their special bond in which he taught her his professional skill of judo.

Wojdan has paved the way for other Saudi girls and women to realize that they too, with practice and perseverance, can also be part of a future Olympic team for their country.  In fact, I would hope that as this post is written there are already other Saudi females who are actively practicing and training for the next Olympics.

As for Wojdan, whether she participates in another Olympics or not, she can share with pride to her future children and grandchildren that yes, she was the first female directly from Saudi Arabia to represent to the country in an Olympics.


38 Responses

  1. What a great story!

  2. It is an achievement, knowing the Saudi atmosphere. The only sport i found big amonst Saudis was football. But this was a very personal effort, but even so, is a landmark.

  3. At 16, she has more courage than many of her peers. She should be commended on her achievement as a person who went against the establishment’s wishes and landed a blow against the government and the backwards clerics.

    At least she stood for her belief in herself and her gender even if she had to make concessions. She can now be counted as one of the few who have pryed the door open against a government, culture and religion that has shown itself to be intolerant and abusive.


    Published on The Weekly Standard (

    Saudi Women: A Force to Be Reckoned With
    Ali H. Alyami
    August 1, 2012 3:59 PM

    For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, Saudi women are being allowed by their ultra-conservative government to compete. As the Saudi athletes marched in the opening ceremonies in London, the women’s faces and open arms showed a joyful sense of emancipation from the yoke of political, religious, and traditional marginalization. By the standards of free and advanced societies, the advance is small, but by Saudi standards, it is a gigantic step forward, with far-reaching implications for Saudi Arabia and the international community.
    Saudi women’s evolving willingness to assert their rights has been a game-changing development of recent years. Known for their resilience and ability to cope with institutional repression, Saudi women are saying enough is enough. Rising levels of education and access to communication tools like the Internet have made them better informed than ever before. They are organizing and unabashedly pursuing their rights despite the attendant risks of harassment by the morals police, arrest, and interrogation. A few have been briefly imprisoned.
    Women’s right to drive cars and to be treated equally in employment are among the most hotly contested issues in Saudi Arabia today. Women are also pressing for improved educational facilities, a modern curriculum that respects the contributions of women, and the removal of the male guardian system, which requires them to have the accompaniment or written approval of a male relative for travel, schooling, employment, and some medical treatment. One recent success is the requirement that department stores selling lingerie replace salesmen with female sales staff, an advance in respect for women and a new source of jobs.
    Yet resistance to change remains fierce. In September 2009, for instance, King Abdullah announced that, after consultation with senior clerics, he was allowing, women to vote in municipal elections and become eligible for appointment to the national Shura Council in 2015. This symbolic step—the elections are largely cosmetic and the Shura Council lacks substantive power—deeply divided the country’s political and religious authorities. One senior cleric, Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, in a rare public display of dissent, accused the king of lying: He denied the clerics had been consulted.
    The House of Saud and the tightly controlled religious institutions it represents remain at odds over to how to deal with women in the 21st century, with the religious establishment adamantly opposed to change. In an attempt to maintain support among their indoctrinated followers, Saudi religious institutions continue to use arcane religious textbooks to advance the notion that women are inferior to men.
    Yet all indications point to the ultimate triumph of modernity over Saudi men’s gender paranoia, as women steadily gain strength, support, and recognition, at home and abroad. Their success seems to be the only hope for positive change in Saudi Arabia, and it will benefit the international community as well, by undermining the religious establishment and the lethal doctrines it propagates around the world. Inexplicably, the international community—notably Western democracies that have been targeted by Muslim extremist and terrorist groups—takes little notice of Saudi women’s struggle. Strong Western support for Saudi women—like those spirited athletes in London—is another development that is long overdue.
    Ali H. Alyami is executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

  5. Congratulation for receiving 4 Million visits to the Blog! We are looking for the GIFT.

    I think Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani also the first female to cover her head in Judo. She may feel proud by improving the decency of the games. She is probably the first woman to threat a sport federation that if they do not change the rules of the game to be compatible with her conventions she will leave, and force them to bow for her demands and change their rules!

  6. The ”decency” of the games… please…. It would be funny if I wasn’t convinced you actually mean that b*llsh*t. They were nice to her, they wanted Saudi women there, so let her wear some silly black stretch material. how does this improve ”decency”? Especially as other women from normal and mentally and sexually healthy societies won’t be wearing silly pieces of material on their heads while practicing martial arts.

    What Saudi women need is more healthy clothing, more interaction with others, like men, and foreigners. I hope that Wodjan being at the games (thrown to the wolves) will be a beginning of Saudi women doing more sports, martial arts, becoming independent and open Saudi society up to a less barbarian and more normal and psychologically healthy society.
    And that misogynist sex maniacs like you will become the silly archaic nutbags they are in the civilized, sane parts of the world

  7. Here’s something refreshing and positive about the kingdom, for a change, from Newsweek by Karen House (Pulitzer Prize Journalist) ….

    Women Rise Up in Saudi Arabia: The Rebellion Behind the Veil. Two Saudi women are competing for the first time in London. Thousands are daring to challenge the status quo at home.

  8. “She may feel proud by improving the decency of the games. She is probably the first woman to threat a sport federation that if they do not change the rules of the game to be compatible with her conventions she will leave, and force them to bow for her demands and change their rules!” MOCKERY AT BEST.

    Had it not been for the intense global pressure on the International Olympic Committee, IOC, and on the Saudi ruling men, the Judo Committee would not have bent its rule to accommodate a culture of oppression and marginalization of women.

    Talking about decency by a people who mutilate it make all gods and angels weep.

    When asked by a BBC host about the Judo Committee’s decision to bend its rule, I said that decision should never have been made. This is in spite of the fact that I and millions of other human rights activists have been lobbying for the inclusion of Saudi women for decades.

    Saudi women are capable and could have won golds had they been free to play sports and test their mental and physical potentials and have a nation that applauds their successes and contributions instead of reducing them to subhuman.

  9. aafke-art ::

    i say !!! you can’t force them to be like the European champions !!!
    they have believes , traditions and what you can call it a personal style !!!
    maybe they like to be like that !!!
    if you want to change them !!! you need to give them better convincing alternatives than their religion !!! ( Islam ) !!! which ordered those girls to be as they are .

    and simply i will say
    i swear by god !!! that you will never
    ever x 999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 times
    be able to give them a convincing alternatives better than Islam

    maybe you will be able to do it !!! if you tricked uneducated person !!!

    but you will not make it with someone know the Islam well

    i don’t say that you are powerless !!! but through my researches about Islam i found that no one can do it !!! it’s a truth accept it or leave it !!!

    if you want to try !!! try to debate with one of the religion men !!! if you believe that you don’t have enough knowledge !!! go and bring three !!!! the biggest athiest , christian and jewish in the whole world and let them debate with one of the well known religion men in KSA for example mohammad al arefe !!! and ask the three to convince al arefe to change his believes which you call it strict !!!
    you believe that al arefe have closed mind ?????
    go to the most peaceful and open minded religion man in KSA and the whole world salman al odah !!! and let them convince him if they can !!!

    it’s not an attack it’s not a sarcasm !!! it’s just an opinion i loved to share it with everyone in this site !!!

    thanx to you all !!! and have a good day !!! 🙂

  10. Abe, that was an excellent article!

  11. I actually feel sorry for the poor girl. First, her country failed her by not providing her with any opportunities to actually practice and improve in her sport. Then, it used her to shield itself from international criticism – by grabbing an inexperienced, unpracticed, unaccomplished teenager utterly unequipped for international competition and sticking her into the pressure cooker of the Olympic Games. So that she could fail spectacularly in front of millions of people, and Saudi Arabic can pat itself on the back saying “yes, you see, we do have women athletes.” It’s a mockery. The poor thing was more concerned with adjusting her outfit than with actually fighting. And now she can go back to her country where she can’t practice anywhere except her own living room.

    Question #2: Why didn’t Sarah Attar’s running outfit not bear the name of her country, as is custom for competing athletes?

  12. EA, Saudi Arabia has no culture, it’s culture was destroyed, what they have now is an experiment in social engineering which has turned at least part of the inhabitants into psychotic wrecks. Some of them comment here…

    And some are even incapable of writing understandable comments at all…..

  13. Agree with NN.

    Oh and EA, i can sit down for a few days and write another holy book that is a hundred times better understandable, a thousand times more decent in morals, and even is gramatically correct.
    Thereby making vast improvement of god/allah’s paltry attempts.

  14. So never mind the scholars, I consider myself better and more moral and with a better grasp of grammar than the currently popular invisible skydaddies.

    PS, I am visible! Another improvement: I can proof my existence!

  15. And this is all happening in the 21st century, not the 7th century.

  16. @EA:

    An alternative to religion is not another religion. An alternative to religion is absence of religion.

  17. Or leave religion to the individual to decide for her/himself whether to worship, believe or not. Religion is an invisible belief that cannot be legislated should not be used as a tool of destruction, corruption, oppression, exploitation and …..

  18. mr Aafke-Art:
    very well !!! the saudi culture is destroyed !!! ok !!! but the silly black thing on girls heads as you say is not invented by the saudi culture !!! it’s invented by the islamic culture !!! and i’m sure that you can’t ignore it or ignore the islamic culture role even on your personal role coz if there wasn’t an islamic culture !!! you may still in the using the bird to send the messages instead of the your computer !!! and still using a horse to go to your work instead of your expensive beautiful car !!!
    this was about the !!! silly black headscarf !!!

    about writing a holy book better than quran !!! i will say i dare you to write a half page not better but even similar to the quran !!! and if you do it , that will be enough reason to me to be an atheist !!! start working now !!! and give me a sample from your work even after a decade from this moment !!!
    you can say i can do this and do that !!!!! but that is not enough !!!! you are an atheist as i believe , and the atheists as i know them believe in the tangible things only !!!! so go and give me a one tangible paper from your holybook !!!

    skip everything i said , forget the vail , the islam , forget everything but now concentrate and focus to give me something worthy to be compared with quran !!!! i dare you !!! again !!!

    <<>> >>> just to let you feel the nature of my comment !!!

  19. NN :
    oooh !!! good point !!! my idea was about the whole alternatives whatever it was religions or not !!! my point was !!!

    do you have something good enough to convince me or everyone on KSA or in the gulf to change the arab/islamic silly -(!! as you see it !!)- lifestyle and be like the other foreign communities ?

    for example aafake said that he can write a holy book better than ours which will more interesting more understandable and easy going book !!!

  20. sorry for the spelling mistakes i was writing fast !!!! i wish a good day for everyone !!!

  21. EA, sorry but but veiling was a Jewish custom in the area before Mohammed came along. A Jewish custom for elite Jewish women, lower class women nd slave women were not allowed to veil or cover their hair.
    ”Hijab” as it is now called was never invented by Muslims, All patriarchal cultures who suppressed women veiled them and shut them up in the house. Muslims were only imitating other cultures when doing the same thing.
    As christianity is really only a sect of Judaism the bible also requires Christian women to cover their hair.
    So veiling is imitating the kuffaar. The Quran is (for once) quite clear on this:according to your own magic book modest dress for women is to cover the breasts and down to the knees. Anything else is made up later and should be regarded as bidah.

  22. btw, the book I would write, you know, the one vastly superior to the current magic books, would never tell women what to wear. It’s silly. And no all powerful deity, not even a limited powerful deity like me, would care a fig about who wears what.

    Except fat women are not allowed to wear pink leggings.

  23. NN, sending Wodjan to the Olympic games reflects really bad on Saudi Arabia as a country. Which country is so uninterested in the Olympics to pick at random some grossly under qualified teenager to represent itself at the games? All countries take the Olympics very seriously, to ridiculous extends even, but Saudi Arabia doesn’t care a fig. They send whatever.
    I wonder if Saudi Arabia should not get a penalty for this… Not being allowed to participate anymore until they can produce some real female athletes, instead of treating the games as a joke.

  24. For years, we have been witnessing women athletes from Morocco, Algeria and Turkey compete at the highest level. And, if memory serves me right, none of them have ever appeared kitted out differently to the rest of the field. They are all practicing Muslims.

    In her brilliant piece, Huffington Post writer and muslim women’s rights activist Shaista Gohir traces the history of participation of Muslim women to the Berlin Games of 1936 in which Halet Cambel was asked to compete in fencing by the founder of the Turkish republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. A fascinating historical perspective!

    SubhanAllah ….

  25. @EA
    I have no interest in convincing you or anyone in the Gulf in changing. To each their own. Just like there’s nothing you can tell me or show me to abandon my lifestyle in favor of Islam.

    I have no issue with you preferring the Quran over anything else. Read what you like. I personally found it tedious but to each their own. To me, anything by Shakespear or Maugham or Sagan or Nabokov is far to superior to your book. It’s a matter of personal opinion.

    I’m sure that whatever Aafke writes would not contain any factual or mathematical mistakes unlike a certain book we all know..

  26. EA:

    The silly black thing on her head is not invented by Islam it is invented by culture. If you look at the koran there actually isn’t anything that requires this on to cover the bosoms. The rest was really enforced a follower who liked to control other wanted something done do to a potty issue, you know the hadith of contradiction which have been verified on not much which had to be sifted through the millions to get a few thousand and even they are labelled on strength or weakness due to the fact that if they through out the weak ones they would have to toss the rest.

  27. NN:

    Maybe it is her way of giving the finger. As an independent free thinking woman would you give support to a country that hates women and have respect for it when it doesn’t respect you are just use it to accomplish something you would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience.

    Think about it.

  28. @EA
    I had to laugh at your comment about using computers and cars and owing it all to Islamic culture. Do you have anything except rhetoric to back that up?

    Let’s have a show of hands – please reference any computers “Made in KSA” or cars “Made in Bahrain.” I will settle for anything made in Jordan or Egypt or hell, Turkey. Yes, by all means, let’s revel in the technological and scientific superiority of Islamic countries…let’s count Nobel prize winners in physics and math that come from Islamic countries…let’s count Pulitzer prize winners from that part of the world…let’s count the number of books published there.

  29. Let’s not unjustly malign Islam, please. It is a religion of peace and submits/bows to peace with no strings attached. Prophet Mohammed saw was sent as an exemplary emissary of peace and mercy to mankind.

    It is the only ummah/nation that rightly and justifiably and boldly believes it is in the right – in every way – while all others are wrong and errant in their ways. No wonder it is universally recognized as the eighth wonder of the world.

    P.S. NN, I know this for a fact that Pakistan manufactures pencils indigenously and it is their major export. It also manufactures islamic atomic bombs indigenously, which its scientists developed by strenuously studying the book of science …. the miraculous koran (in Dutch language).

  30. This girl is a bad a** rockstar. I was SO proud of her for actually going through with it. It was/is shameful that the two ladies had to walk behind the men in the parade and that aside from one English paper she’s been entirely unrecognized here in her own country. She’s the biggest thing Saudi has to be proud of right now! I want to see her get a professional trainer and come back next time and kick some butt. Loved that the first full Saudi Olympian woman was in a fighting sport, too. GoodI too am confused by the “spy” revelation. Bravo, girl!

  31. Decency? Really. Unbelievable what idiocy people subscribe to.

  32. apologies something random got pasted in the middle end of my comment!

  33. Go ahead. Show us, Not just talking as people before who do nothing.

  34. I am waiting for that half page also.

  35. Dont forget! aafake talk about moral!!!

  36. You are good with fashion.

  37. Read the news again!!!.

  38. well, for one, morality wise, my magic book would forbid slavery and rape of women and children. Which already places it miles above the Torah, Bible and Quran, even before I started!

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