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Middle east

IKEA 'regrets' cutting women from Saudi advert

Latest update : 2012-10-02

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has come under fire after removing images of women and girls from the Saudi version of its catalogue, a move the company has since said it “regrets”.

Swedish furniture giant IKEA has landed itself in hot water after removing images of women and girls from the Saudi version of its catalogue, a move the company has since said should have been handled differently.

The report sparked a furious reaction in the company’s native Sweden, prompting the furniture giant to issue a rapid apology. The firm said, “We take full responsibility for the mistakes made”, and that it “deeply regrets” the incident.

IKEA's Saudi catalogue, which is also available online, looks the same as all its other editions, except for the absence of women. One picture shows a family apparently getting ready for bed, with a young boy brushing his teeth in the bathroom. However, a pyjama-clad woman standing next to the boy is missing from the Saudi version.

Women appear only infrequently in Saudi-run advertising, mostly on Saudi-owned TV channels that show women in long dresses, scarves covering their hair and long sleeves. In imported magazines, censors black out many parts of a woman's body including arms, legs and chest.

Swedish government fury

The Swedish government wasted no time is voicing its ire.

"You can't remove or airbrush women out of reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to be seen or heard, or to work, they are letting half their intellectual capital go to waste," Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling said in a statement.

Swedish equality minister Nyamko Sabuni noted that IKEA is a private company that makes its own decisions, but added that it also projects an image of Sweden around the world.

“For IKEA to remove an important part of Sweden’s image and an important part of its values in a country that more than any other needs to know about about Ikea’s principles and values – that’s completely wrong,” Sabuni told The Associated Press.

IKEA Group, one of the many branches in the company’s complicated corporate structure, said it had produced the catalogue for a Saudi franchisee outside the group. IKEA's Saudi franchise partner currently operates three stores in the country, where it has seen "double digit" yearly growth over the past five years, according to its website.

“We will naturally review our routines and working process, to ensure that this will never happen again,” Inter IKEA System B.V, the franchisor, said in a statement.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-10-02

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