Saudi women sit in a stadium to attend an event in the capital Riyadh on September 23, 2017 commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom. The national day celebration coincides with a crucial time for Saudi Arabia, which is in a battle for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, bogged down in a controversial military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and at loggerheads with fellow US Gulf ally Qatar. / AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Hundreds of women thronged a sports stadium for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day Saturday, celebrated across the conservative kingdom with a raucous display of concerts, folk dance and fireworks.
The presence of women at the King Fahd stadium marks a departure from previous celebrations in the Gulf kingdom where they are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on public segregation of the sexes.
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Women were allowed to enter the stadium, a previously male-only venue used mostly for football matches, with their families and seated separately from single men to watch a musical show and a play on Saudi history.
“We hope in the future that there will be no restrictions on our entrance to the stadium,” Um …
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