Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant, is not just popular in Europe and the US, but also in the Arab Gulf states, where families frequently go shopping for the latest furniture and decorative objects. And just like in the West, the European company distributes its catalogue to its customers. The glossy brochure promises a comfortable and harmonic family atmosphere for everyone’s homes. But there is one difference. When going through the Saudi version of the catalogue, one will quickly note that on some pages, women and girls have been airbrushed out.
Ikea quickly came under attack from the Swedish government. ”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,” Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling said in a statement. The Swedish equality minister Nyamko Sabuni said to Associated Press that “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.”
In a statement released by Ikea, the company expresses its regrets over the decision: “We should have reacted and realised that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values.”