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Saudi Arabia for First Time Allows Photos of Women in School Textbooks


“Only drawings of women were permitted in school books before.”

From new English textbook via Al Hayat

The Arabic newspaper Al Hayat is reporting that high school students in Saudi Arabia are about to see something new: photographs of women in English textbooks.

Before labeling the change revolutionary, it’s worth noting that students won’t actually be able to see the women, as the faces in the photos are veiled or covered with masks. Those women who weren’t originally properly covered up apparently got the photo-shop treatment to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s conservative Islamic tradition.

Al Arabiya reports:

For the first time in the public education system in Saudi Arabia, photos of women have been added to English high school books, the al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.[…]

The current academic year, however, saw the circulation of the first series of books that include women’s pictures. The new copies are still in the experimental phase, however, and the final authorization for the books to be in full circulation is set to take place at the end of the academic year.

Although the women appearing in photos in the books are veiled, the step is still regarded as a major change since only drawings of women were permitted in school books before.

Photo from new Saudi school book via Al Hayat

An English book, part of the third year of high school, contains a picture of a nurse wearing a headscarf and a medical mask while preparing an injection. The exercise accompanying the photo asks students to discuss the changes in the percentage of men and women in traditional occupations.

There is also a photo of a girl standing in a lab. The woman was apparently not veiled in the original picture and an additional part was added in the school book to cover her face.

Al Arabiya notes that photographs of women have been banned in both girls’ and boys’ schools since public education was established in Saudi Arabia in 1926.

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