Back home, some hard-liners have urged her not to jeopardize her place in the afterlife for a fleeting bit of fame on earth. Others have warned that she and her family could face ostracism when she goes home.
‘‘She will definitely face difficulties (back home),’’ Hashem Abdo Hashem, editor-in-chief of Saudi’s Arabic daily newspaper Okaz, told The Associated Press. ‘‘The society here will look at her negatively.’’
Saudi women face widespread restrictions in nearly all aspects of public and private life, particularly under guardianship laws that require them to have a male relative’s permission before they can travel abroad, work, marry, get divorced or even be treated at some hospitals. It is also the only country in the world that forbids women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. Some women who have challenged the driving ban have even been detained.
Recently, King Abdullah has pushed for some limited reforms in the face of opposition from the country’s ultraconservative clerics. Women have been promised the ability to run and vote in municipal elections in 2015, and a new university near Jiddah allows men and women to study together in contrast to the strict general separation of the sexes across the kingdom.
The decision to allow Shahrkhani and another U.S.-based Saudi woman to compete in the games was an extension of those reforms.
After the match, Shahrkhani looked to the future, both for her and many other women in her country.
‘‘Hopefully,’’ she said, ‘‘this is the beginning of a new era.’’
Associated Press reporters Aya Batrawy in Cairo, and Maria Cheng and Graham Dunbar in London contributed to this report
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