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Saudi Arabia to Open Sports Stadiums to Women in Reform Push

FILE - Saudi Arabian women attend a rally celebrating National Day, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 23, 2017.

Starting next year, Saudi women will be able to attend sports events at three stadiums across the country, as part of the kingdom's efforts to improve women's rights.

Last month hundreds of women were allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, in a one-off event to celebrate Saudi Arabia's national day.

On Sunday, the General Sports Authority announced on social media that it was "starting the preparation of three stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to be ready to accommodate families from early 2018."

The ultra-conservative kingdom, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, has long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.

The announcement follows one last month which will allow women to drive starting next June.

The kingdom is also expected to lift a public ban on cinemas and has encouraged mixed-gender celebrations - something unseen before.