Ikea 'regrets' removal of women from Saudi catalogue

A composite picture taken from the Saudi and English versions of the Ikea catalogue Women are missing from several images in the Saudi version of the Ikea catalogue (R)

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Swedish furniture company Ikea has said it regrets that images of women are missing from the Saudi version of its catalogue.

Women are clearly present in corresponding images in the firm's English-language catalogue.

The firm said "excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values".

It attributed the gaffe to the fact its Saudi operation is run by a franchisee.

Several images in the catalogue, published on Ikea's Saudi website, show women completely absent in a number of promotional scenes.

The same images in other versions of the catalogue include women.

Ikea said it was reviewing its "routines" in response to the issue.

"We support the fundamental human rights of all people and we do not accept any kind of discrimination," the company said in a statement to the BBC.

Islamic Sharia law is applied strictly in Saudi Arabia, where the ruling Al Saud family espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Women live under various restrictions, including no right to drive, and must be covered whenever they are outside the home.

Saudi leader King Abdullah is seen as trying to cautiously introduce reforms, some aimed at loosening restrictions on women's right to vote.

Ikea, which posted net profits of almost 3 billion euros (£2.4bn; $3.9bn) last year, operates three branches in Saudi Arabia.

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