• Sweden's news in English

Ikea 'sorry' for erasing women in Saudi book

1 Oct 2012, 17:10

Published: 01 Oct 2012 17:10 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the Saudi version of Ikea's annual furniture booklet, all the women who appear in the catalogue published in other countries have been removed via photo retouching.

The altered images caused a stir when revealed in Swedish media, prompting an apology from Ikea’s head office in Sweden.

“We apologize and understand that people are upset,” said Ulrika Englesson Sandman, a spokeswoman for the Inter IKEA Systems, which owns the Ikea trademark and concept, to the Expressen newspaper.

“This is really unfortunate. We have been in contact with Saudi Arabia to discuss this issue. It should be possible to balance Ikea’s values so that we don’t discriminate people. At the same time, we try to adapt to the cultures and the legislation that are there," she told Sveriges Radio (SR).

The removal of the women, including a young girl who was pictured studying at her desk, has prompted a strong response from many prominent women in Sweden:

"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 minister for trade, Ewa Björling, said in a statement.

"It's impossible to retouch women out of reality," she told the Metro newspaper.

Her sentiment was echoed by Sweden's European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, who branded the incident "medieval" on the social networking site Twitter.

Even the image of a female designer who helped design the company's "PS" line of home furnishings has been removed from the Saudi catalogues.

Saudi Arabia applies strict rules of gender segregation, banning women from driving and requiring them to have permission from a male guardian before travelling or receiving medical care.

Story continues below…

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.

The Local/AFP/og

Follow The Local on Twitter

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

20:29 October 1, 2012 by Gjeebes
Of course Swedes are outraged about how other countries and cultures behave; oh my god, they aren't following us, the Swedes, we are so great, and self-important. How American! And anyway, you Swedes ought to get your hair in a bunch about that, since it saves you the bother of looking at outrageous things closer to home, like Grade A students that can't read and "universities" that are effectively high schools for overgrown teenagers.
21:00 October 1, 2012 by storstark
not sure what he's on... but anyway... i have two challenges for the good people at ikea...

1. boycott ALL countries that apply any kind of segregation... believe it or not, this kind of pressure works, ask a south african...

2. if your moral fortitude isn't as strong as your thirst for the saudi blood riyal, perhaps you can try recalling all your catalgoues, reprinting them with original photos and distributing them once more... maybe with an editorial note that says "this special edition of the ikea catalogue celebrates women in their pyjamas and girls with pens in their hands - long may these images reign and not be hidden by some made-up religious dribble that mascarades the control games that men play to feel superior and propogate an apartheid society"

3. failing that, at least be honest and add in some new women in the corners of each shot, covered head to toe in blue garbage sacks with slits for their happy eyes (so that you can tell they really enjoy the freedom their menfolk have and are glad they're not on show and whipping up the devil by daring to reveal themselves)
22:18 October 1, 2012 by redfish
ikea saudi arabia should sell burquas
22:40 October 1, 2012 by Dr. Dillner
Great job in, "Photoshopping" the picture! Super work, Ikea.
23:38 October 1, 2012 by DAVID T
I think it's a great idea unless they are in the kitchen - those should be put back in :-)
02:43 October 2, 2012 by scandaphile
'Sorry' is not good enough. Ikea must pulp the catalogues and reprint them with females included. Or pull out of Saudi Arabia.
05:13 October 2, 2012 by jimmyjames
When South Africa practiced racial apartheid the entire world bent over backward to eventually bring apartheid down. What Saudi Arabia does is gender apartheid plain and simple. The religious angle utilized by the Saudis is a load of BS. I fail to understand how or why everyone had no hesitation in publically belittleing the South Africans but go out of their way to kiss the butts of the Saudis and other Muslim nations for their oil and out of fear of their suicide lunacy tactics. What pathetic hypocrisy, cowardice, and greed. Let us all stop being "politically correct" and speak the truth.......about all things.
07:37 October 2, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Ikea should partner with Victoria's Secret to make a revised version of the catalogue. (Interesting how no one complains about the absence of men in VS catalogues...)

Normally I criticize the hypersensitivity to images that is part of Swedish culture (rippíng down posters of a children's movie, the idiotic waste of tax payer money to rip down and replace the crosswalk signs of Uppsala because the woman's silhouette was a bit attractive, etc..), and on the surface this case is a bit of a stretch (after all, this is a marketing decision in a foreign land ... do all SUV photos in the US now have to include a woman in the passenger seat, and a girl studying in the back seat?), but the promotion of women's rights, freedoms, access to education, and the eventual erradication of burqu'as worldwide (the sooner the better) is a worthy cause, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and presumably ikea's sales there will not plummet as a result of partial or complete boycott by consumers that might be caused a new catalogue, so I say: new catalogue.

Not sure that an image or two of woman brushing her teeth in an Ikea catalogue will lead to burqu'a burning parties, but no harm either for Ikea (and all other western companies) to disseminate a slow and steady stream images of women and their daughters leading normal lives.
08:38 October 2, 2012 by Uncle

You you got it right. Richard Dawkins said in "God Delusion" that if South Africans would announce apartheid a part fo their religion and heritage, it would exist to these days.

This actually would not be so crazy far from the truth, as the black tribes in South Africa were able to maintain their traditions and language DUE to apartheid, whereas most other colonized african countries were completely overrun with european languages, religion and culture.

Islamic countries are using brainwash in order to get popular support of their population of women oppression, as well as religious, ethnical and sexual minorities oppression. There is a total regression of that world into medieval barbarism, where people are into burning embassies, as a protest against others saying that they burn embassies. Furthermore, sharia countries are getting stronger and more violent and their influence is spreading.

Western companies should announce a total rejection of these views and make a stand. Every bank, every automotive company, every freaking electronics producer should pump that world with women posters. Gays also for a good measure.

Intel should put jewish engineers on their commercials. Coca Cola should have kissing girls on a beach in theirs. Lamborghini should invest into female drivers ads.

Either Saudis, Somalis, Sudenese, Egyptians, Iranis (to some extent), Qataris, Kuwaitees will prefer to get back to the caves, where their menthality belongs and say no to consumer goods or they will start changing.
12:42 October 2, 2012 by jahid
Really? That bigger deal? Learn to respect country's own rule. Saudi does not need IKEA, its IKEA who went to Saudi. If they want to do business, then they need to comply with that country rules.

Besides, what is this big noise about openness and discrimination? Showing female body can be part of Swedish culture, that does not mean every country has to follow that.

Each country has their own culture and religion. There is no harm to respect that; and that way others will respect you as well.

Finally, if IKEA does not like these rules, they can leave Saudi or some other country. Who cares about a furniture making company anyway? Those countries that does not have IKEA, they don't have furnitures?
13:17 October 2, 2012 by Uncle

Oh, yeah. Who needs all of this involvement into slavery in Central African Republic? This is their ways and this is how they shall live.... Not everyone is born free, so what is the big deal?

What is the big deal with forced circumcision of girls? What is the big deal with the marriages of 9 years olds? What is the big deal with ya'll butchering gays on city squares? Merely a cute tradition, that nobody shall care about...

How is torture in prisons a business of anyone else? Why burning churches is such a fuss, isn't it a good islamic tradition? Why wouldn't we support that a rape is a rape only if 4 RESPECTALBE men confirm that it was a rape?

Why would Sweden not respect the wonderful traditions of muslims, when musilms show constant respect and compliance with swedish traditions and culture?

In one thing we agree - IKEA, Volvo, Scania, Astra Zeneca, Skandia and others shall stop selling their stuff in this entire area - from Morocco to Malaysia and from Iran to Yemen. I would encourage EVERY other western company to withdraw their products from there.
13:26 October 2, 2012 by Twiceshy
let me see if I understand this. when muslims come to sweden, they must be allowed to wear a burka in school when swed's don't (sweden must change for them). but, when swed's go to a muslim country, they must adapt to that county. ok i think i have this straight now.
01:25 October 3, 2012 by Swedish Cat
As much as I condemn the fact that women is even removed and in our western civilization it is absolutely madness that people are living in this type of ignorance. I still think Jahid got a point in his statement. I lived in Saudi Arabia as a child and can easily see how it can be a problem as Saudi is one of the Muslim country were it is the strictest. Showing females not dressed the proper way (weather we like it or not) is not only for show, t is against the law. Just as we expect immigrants to follow Swedish laws in our country how strange they might find us we can not expect to go to them and break theirs. IKEA is a furniture company and not a welfare organization trying to sell their things in Saudi markets. They could probably distribute the catalogues and have them all disposed of by Saudi officials (equals no sales) apply their catalogue the way they did or boycott them. I personally don't think boycotting the country is going to make it better for these women,, opposite I would dare to say! The less influence they get from the Western world the more isolated and stuck in the old they will be, I don't think it is a quick fix and this! Suppression of women is well known even before the IKEA issue. If you feel as me that these laws are going against the human rights we should have UN etc to do something as IKEA is not going to change the world,
10:44 October 3, 2012 by Uncle
Swedish Cat

Seems that people like you are a bit... how to say it "double standarted"...

The calls to boycotte South Africa seem to be legitimate. Many of those who accept the little perk of female factual slavery in islamic countries, seem to be less tolerant towards, say, business making with Israel.

The same logic goes for the apparent difference between palestinians who are target eliminated and kurds, who are carpet bombed.

There will be no influence from the west, if west bends to the cute traditions of islamists. How about commercials in Sudan? Should IKEA present slaves serving the masters in kitchen, just because Sudan is OK running slave caravans? It is not about traditions, but about barbarism that shall not be cooperated with.
10:55 October 3, 2012 by rise
Business is business. I doubt Ikea would have been as prosperous if run by a typical soft-hearted politician.
10:17 October 4, 2012 by nolikegohome
In other words IKEA is trying to say: "God made Man from a Mans rib, God did not make Woman from a Mans rib" I feel sorry for the Saudi men now they will not be able to drool over womens pictures. Shame on You IKEA.
13:32 October 4, 2012 by tombby11
What the hell guys chill out ... it is IKEAS fault ... why you blame cultures :) Just for your all information, in Saudi Arabia it would be totally fine if IKEA released the original catalogs. In Saudi they have Cinemas, TV , Newspapers , and they show women in all of them (maybe not naked, but still they show) . It was Ikeas fault for being stupid enough to do so. And for those who say let the western stop exporting to Arabs and Muslim countries their products, I would say YES DO IT , but after taking back the forces from those lands ... or is it ok to Kill people but not ok to cover the hair of the women ? who has the double standards now ?
Today's headlines
Gothenburg 'one of Europe's most segregated cities'
An Isis flag in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo: Uncredited/AP

One in ten school students in Gothenburg's north-eastern suburbs sympathize with religious extremist organizations, according to a survey.

Julian Assange
Sweden won't suspend Assange warrant for funeral
Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The WikiLeaks founder has requested a temporary suspension of an arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the funeral of his mentor.

Swedish football diehard who went viral doesn't get the fuss
Possibly the most dedicated fan in the world. Photo: Patric Söderström/TT

A picture of Gefle IF celebrating with the only fan to make a 1164km round trip to see them has gone viral. The Local spoke to the diehard in question.

'I want to see women priests in the Catholic Church'
Archbishop Antje Jackelén meeting Pope Francis earlier in 2016. Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/AP

'I told the pope last year during a speech it is time to no longer speak for women about women, but to speak with women,' Sweden's Archbishop says.

Sweden one of world's easiest places to do business: report
A meeting at a Stockholm office. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

It is easier to do business in Sweden now than it was last year, according to a World Bank report.

This Swede has built a procrastinator's dream
Anders Åberg has built a website that allows you to hear what’s going on above the Earth. Photo: Personal & NASA

Ever wondered what's going on in the sky above the earth and in space? Now you can hear for yourself.

Presented by Malmö Tourism
Seven reasons why Malmö is the football capital of Sweden
Players from FC Rosengård, Sweden's most successful women's football team. Photo: Hangsna

It’s official, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

Fake police car driver seized after confronting real police
File photo of a police car. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Three men in a fake police car were left red-faced after they tried to stop a man in southern Sweden who turned out to be an off-duty officer.

This tiny bird can fly for ten months straight: scientists
The common swift while not in flight. Photo: Madis Veskimeister/Wikimedia

Swedish scientists have found that this bird stays in the air for almost a year without landing.

Why the Pope is visiting Sweden next week
Pope Francis in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope to nail reconciliation agenda to Lutherans' door in southern Sweden.

Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
Antonio, 19, is a Syrian refugee and porn actor hoping to change perceptions of refugees
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: October 26th
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available