Progress in the struggle for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi woman climbs to new heights
By Jerry Brownstein
Raha Moharrak was born into the Saudi Arabian culture which harshly suppresses women, but that has not stopped her from climbing the highest mountains in the world - including Mount Everest. When she was 25 her parents felt it was time for her follow custom and get married, but Raha had different ideas. She wanted to go with a friend to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, but her family and the Saudi society were completely against that idea. "It enraged me that the colour of my passport dictated my capabilities. It enraged me that my gender made them think they can tell me what I can and cannot do," she says. "How can they tell me I can't do this just because I was born a Saudi?"

Her father eventually gave his permission for the trip and that was the beginning of her groundbreaking mountaineering career. She became the youngest Arab and the first Saudi woman to conquer Everest, and she has climbed to the top of the seven highest mountains on each continent. Raha has become a symbol of the struggle to acquire more rights for women in Saudi Arabia. She understands that the challenges Saudi women face aren't going to disappear overnight: "You will always have barriers. But you are the ones who are supposed to fight them. I'm an average, simple girl. I was born in Jeddah, I was born in the sand, yet I managed to touch the sky. Don't tell me that we are not capable of wonders, don't tell me that we are less capable than other people.”


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