Saudi Arabia seeks arrest of citizens on wanted list who are overseas

Fans watch a match at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match Friday, as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.

However, according to reports, the women were segregated in the stands from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section" at King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah's Pearl stadium.

On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game.

The Saudi government revealed that there would be two more such occasions in Jeddah in the coming weeks and that all the nations football grounds will ready for female fans by the start of the next football season.

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Females were in attendance at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah to witness Al-Ahli defeat Al-Batin 5-0.

Some people used the hashtag online to write that women should stay at home to focus on children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium packed with males.

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its global image.

There are still many things women are unable to do without permission, such as applying for passports, travelling overseas, opening a bank account and starting certain businesses.

Set to inherit a country where more than half the population is under 25 years old and hungry for change, the young crown prince has looked to boost his popularity by curbing almost four decades of deeply entrenched ultraconservative influence. The kingdom's stadium had not been built with women in mind, so modifications were made so that they could attend matches. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organised", said Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother.

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