Inside the Middle East
October 2, 2012
Posted: 1316 GMT

Swedish furniture giant IKEA apologized Monday for removing women from their catalogues distributed in their stores in Saudi Arabia.

The free Swedish newspaper Metro published an article showing side-by-side images from the IKEA catalogue – in the Saudi version, a woman has been airbrushed out of the photo.

In a statement, IKEA spokeswoman Ulrika Englesson Sandman said the company "regrets" the incidents and understands "why people are upset."

"It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures" Sandman said." The mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalogue for IKEA Saudi Arabia. We take full responsibility for the mistakes made."

Sweden has long been committed to gender equality and IKEA's marketing move sparked criticism at home that the company is breaching long held values regarding women's role in society.

Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling told the Metro newspaper "It's impossible to retouch women out of reality." Sweden's European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, apparently branded the incident as "medieval" in Swedish tweet.

Saudi Arabia is a religiously conservative kingdom where women can't drive and need the permission of a male guardian to work or travel. When in public, women are required to cover their hair and wear a loose flowing robe called an abaya.

It is also common for Saudi censors to black out magazine pages showing women's arms and legs, essentially using a permanent marker to add an abaya to models.

The story sparked mixed reactions on social media ranging from outrage to lack of surprise...

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Filed under: Saudi Arabia •Women

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Explorer08   October 2nd, 2012 3:14 pm ET

I am fairly certain the Saudis are from another planet. They've come to Earth to promote fascism.

Miriam   October 2nd, 2012 7:23 pm ET

Now I KNOW why I don't like IKEA (catalogues)....ha, ha...

Annie   October 4th, 2012 6:50 am ET

I don't understand all the hoo has about this. I lived there for 2 years and this is their culture, this is what they do and we have no right to criticize their rules or what they do. Respect their culture for what it is right now.

carla   October 4th, 2012 8:23 pm ET

It may be their law but it is wrong. This is what the world is trying to get Saudia Arabia to stop. Women should have equal rights no matter where in this world they are born.

Dave   October 16th, 2012 8:20 pm ET

This is what the west with our leadership (UA) is spending our tax dollars and lives to protect in the middle east so few individuals can make their billions!? While, we are told it is all for the human right, democracy and freedom!? Hypocrisy at its best!? Resources to be used improving our country, building schools, roads, hospitals, and providing a better life and education, are used to protect dictators denying their people the very basic rights we preach!? Why all of our allies in the middle east are puppet dictators with no elections and democracy!? Why do we attach Iraq and Afghanistan while the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan (Our allies on the war against terror?!).

gouli   October 20th, 2012 8:26 pm ET

It is all about the money, don't you know?!

erguntok1931   October 30th, 2012 6:19 am ET

Saudi men did not discovered yet a woman’s friendship and trust can be their biggest asset. They treat women, as they were slaves. In addition, I think, by hiding women from view they think somebody else will not lust and steal from them! What a lack of self-confidence and torture for women! Only if a woman is brain washed since their childhood can tolerate this situation.

Middle Eastern   October 31st, 2012 9:38 am ET

Why not leave her reflection only in the mirror so that men reading the catalogue wont get sexually excited since she is only a ghost! hahahahahahaha. Women are pilots in western countries and in Saudi trhey cant appear in catalogues! Totaly ridiculous!

Seraj ALZahrani   November 3rd, 2012 8:24 am ET

We respect women and do not see does not mean we do not respect them, he did not say that only ignorant of the teachings of the Islamic religion, it is honoring women in Islam do not appear as a sexual commodity
Please Read about Islam and its teachings and heavenly judge afterwards.

arwa   November 4th, 2012 6:39 am ET

so wha ??!! this is our culture , no one can change it , i hope somepeople learn how to be respectful

Anderson   December 9th, 2012 7:22 am ET

@arwa: Yes I agree. You are beyond salvage.

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