Saudi women enter stadiums for first time

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"Al-Ahli v Al-Batin match at Jeddah stadium makes history as first to allow women to sit in designated family stands", wrote The Guardian.

The government's General Sports Authority said this week that three stadiums had so far been modified to accommodate women through the addition of private sections for women and their male relatives, female bathrooms and even prayer areas.

One woman described it as a great experience, completely unlike watching at home.

The kingdom has also announced that starting in June women will be allowed to drive, lifting the world's only ban on female drivers.

A hashtag, translated as "the people welcome the entry of women into stadiums", was used tens of thousands of times in two hours as the match took place.

Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, told AFP she was proud and looked forward to the match. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organized", said Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother.

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Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, said it was a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes".

Under his guidance, some aspects of the kingdom's guardianship system - which has aligned the country with a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and under which a woman must have a male companion with her in public at all times - have become more relaxed.

Construction teams had scrambled to build female toilets and line off a women-only parking lot ahead of the game.

However there has been some opposition to the reforms by Saudi clerics and conservative members of society.

Saudi Arabia plans to extradite its nationals living overseas and involved in corruption cases, the Sabq local online news reported on Thursday.

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