Saudi Ladies International: Maha Haddioui welcomes Saudi Arabia & # 039; progress & # 039;

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Maha Haddioui from Morocco has played more than 100 tournaments on the Ladies & # 39; European Tour

The first Arab professional on the Ladies & # 39 European Tour says Saudi Arabia is making "improvements" as it prepares to host its first women's golf events.

Professional women's golf has never taken place before in the kingdom, which has been widely criticized for its reputation for human rights.

"For me it's a huge improvement," said Moroccan professional Maha Haddioui.

"To be part of something so great, a moment in history, for me it is a new Saudi Arabia when it comes to many things and to be a part of that. making is really big.

"For Saudi Arabia, putting down that much money twice in a row is a huge explanation for the p between men's and women's golf.

A prize find of $ 1 million (£ 750,000) is available for this week's singles tournament at Royal Greens Golf Club.

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Saudi Arabia, which recently announced that it will host its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2021 has been scrutinized in recent years for organizing major sporting events involving human rights organizations. as Amnesty International say the country wants to "flush" its reputation.

The head of Amnesty's campaigns has said that sports competitions such as F1 events are too close to Saudi Arabia. offer "a means to rename their severely tarnished reputation".

The Saudi Ladies International was scheduled to take place in March, until the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement. else Meghan MacLaren had said at the time that she would boycott the event for the & # 39; sportswashing & # 39; reasons mentioned by Amnesty and others.

Until 2018, women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and, while a number of reforms have taken place in recent years, an activist who campaigned for the right of women to drive is currently refusing to eat in protest at detention conditions. Her family claims her freedom has been offered if she agrees to say she was not tortured.

"It doesn't matter where you go, you can look for flaws or what is improving," said Haddioui. "By looking at what improves, you keep improving here. For me, the glass is half full; Saudi is making huge improvements."

The 32-year-old, who joined the Ladies' European Tour as a professional in 2012, will be joined in the field at this week's event by the likes of Charley Hull and Georgia Hall in England.

She says that professional sport has not yet been considered a viable career path for women in the region, but believes that organizing historic events will provide aspiring sportswomen with a vision of what they could reach.

"It will motivate many young girls to start the game," she added. "I think there will be a lot more Arab female professional golfers in the years to come. to be.

"The game has changed my life. I travel the world doing what I love. I wish the same for every woman in the Arab world to take advantage of these opportunities."

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