There's been more than enough writing about Saudi Arabia's pitiful human rights record, especially in regards to women, religious minorities and dissent against the government.
So perhaps it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that no one is handling things very well after a woman won a go-cart race in the capital Riyadh this week.
On Friday, a racing group called RBG Team organized a race open to both women and men at Riyadh's Al Reem Circuit. It was the first of its kind in the conservative kingdom, where women and men generally don’t even pass through the same entrances in public.
Saudi-based new site Al Madinh reported a Saudi woman named Hadeel Saleh beat 59 other competitors on Friday’s race after training in the vehicle for the past year and a half.
Now, there's a long list of things women in Saudi Arabia cannot do. They can't leave the house without a male chaperone, can't compete freely in sporting events and can't interact in public with men who are not their relatives. And while all these likely factor into the enormity of the response to this event, perhaps the biggest standout here is a law people probably hear about the most of all—in Saudi Arabia, women still cannot drive.
Similarly, turns out in 2016, no one could really handle a woman winning a go-cart race, either. On Sunday, Saudi Twitter was alight with criticism and calls for a step-in from Saudi's Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—the Islamic religous police whose other appearances include YouTube clips harassing women in malls for wearing nail polish. And while it might be considered a sign of improving times that the mixed-gender competition happened in Riyadh at all, the online reaction to a woman coming out on top reminds us that this is still Saudi Arabia.
Have a look at some of them below, via Twitter.
الى الملك سلمان إلى الأميرمحمد بن نايف إلى الأمير محمد بن سلمان نطالب بمنع مايحدث ب #حلبه_الريم_رقص_موسيقي_اختلاط pic.twitter.com/RshQmjaxnF— قناة المجتمع السعودي (@ksa12300) January 23, 2016
We demand King Salman and all other princes to stop what is happening in Al Reem Circuit.
#حلبة_الريم_رقص_موسيقى_اختلاط في الحد الجنوبي رجال يذودون بأرواحهم عنكم، وعن أمنّ هذه البلاد، فكيف نطلب النصر من الله لهم وهذا فعلنا؟— سعد التويم (@altuwaim_s) January 23, 2016
On our borders there are brave men fighting for our land, how can we expect god to grant us victory while we are doing this!?
#حلبة_الريم_رقص_موسيقى_اختلاط حسبي الله ونعم الوكيل هذا الفسق والبطر . اين الرقيب؟— عبد الهادي (@abdul7adi__) January 23, 2016
This is pure corruption, where are the men of the Committee?
#حلبة_الريم_رقص_موسيقى_اختلاط بدلا من الدعاء لمن هم بين الحياة والموت لأجلنا، نرى موسيقى ورقص والأدهى حضور النساء ! pic.twitter.com/jFmxhlDOXX— عدنان الشهراني (@adnan_al_obaid) January 23, 2016
Instead of praying for our soldiers we are sending women to race and dance with males!!
أنا أحد رجال هيئة الأمر بالمعروف ونحن ممنوعين من دخول حلبة الريم ووصلت لنا عشرات البلاغات ولكن ليس بيدنا شيء #حلبه_الريم_رقص_موسيقي_اختلاط— #رجل_هيئة (@HAYAH_MAN) January 23, 2016
I work in the committee for promotion of virtue and prevention of vice and we are not allowed to enter the circuit, we received hundreds of complaints but we can't do anything about it.