Mon, May 20, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Saudi woman tops Everest as Riyadh eases sports ban

MOUNT MISOGYNY:Raha Moharrak was the first Saudi woman to conquer the peak, symbolizing the progress being made in her country to open up sports to women

AFP, KATHMANDU

Saudi Raha Moharrak reached the summit of Nepal’s Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in a first for the conservative Muslim kingdom where women’s sports are severely restricted, tourism officials said yesterday.

The 25-year-old reached the 8,848m summit early on Saturday morning with a party of foreign mountaineers and Nepalese guides.

“She reached the peak with 12 other members of the expedition,” Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, told reporters from Everest Base Camp.

“We have been able to contact her and she is very exhausted and now resting,” Hassan Moharrak, the climber’s father, told reporters, adding that the family was very happy with her achievement.

Raha Moharrak’s feat is back-dropped by her country’s gradual warming to the idea of women participating in sports.

In a historic first for the country, two female athletes participated in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Earlier this month, the Saudi government allowed some girls in private schools to participate in athletics, but requested the schools ensure girls wear “a covering and decent outfit” for sport activities in “suitable areas.”

According to international watchdog Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that still effectively bars girls from taking part in sports in government schools.

“It’s terrific [that] a Saudi woman has been able to reach the summit of Everest,” Human Rights Watch director of global initatives Minky Worden told reporters. “But it’s worth remembering that meanwhile millions of women and girls in Saudi Arabia are still denied the right to climb in a gym or play any sports, including in state schools — as a matter of government policy.”

Raha Moharrak’s expedition, dubbed “Arabs with Altitude,” undertook the quest to raise money for education charities in Nepal.

Hundreds of climbers are expected to attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest peak in the coming days since a fair weather window has opened up.

However, this year — the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s maiden Everest summit — the climbing has been marred by a brawl that broke out between European climbers and Nepalese Sherpas high on the mountain last month.

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