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Marathon men: Saudi Arabia hosts male-only international running competition

Authorities barred women from taking part in the race [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 February, 2018

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Saudi Arabia has hosted its first international marathon in the capital Riyadh but only allowed men to participate in the competition.

Saudi Arabia has hosted its first international marathon in the capital Riyadh but only allowed men to participate in the competition, local media reported.

Male runners took part in the 2018 Riyadh marathon on Saturday, with Ethiopian Tamera Mola taking first place and winning a cash prize of 1 million Saudi Riyals ($27,000).

Authorities barred women from taking part in the race despite a series of recent reforms aimed at easing tight restrictions on women.

The ban on women meant marathon runner Sarah Attar, who competed for Saudi Arabia in the 2016 Olympic Games, could not participate the country's first international marathon.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful heir to the Saudi throne, has been leading a drive to reform the country's dependence on oil and empower women.

In January, Saudi women were allowed for the first time ever to enter a football stadium to watch a game and the kingdom is also opening several sectors of the workplace to women.

Saudi Arabia has also announced an end to a longstanding ban on women driving, which is to take effect in June.

Earlier this month, a senior Saudi cleric said Saudi women should not be "forced to wear abayas".

But critics say the Gulf kingdom still has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women.

Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women are still required to present proof of permission from a male "guardian" - normally the husband, father or brother - to do any government paperwork, travel or enrol in classes.

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