Ikea Erases Women in Saudi Catalog

The pictures have sparked a furor over gender equality in Sweden

By Gisela Crespo
|  Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012  |  Updated 5:24 AM PDT
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Ikea has expressed “regret” for its “mistake.”

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Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant, is taking heat for photoshopping females out of its Saudi Arabian catalog—a move first thought to be made at the request of the ultra conservative kingdom.

The free Stockholm newspaper Metro, published pictures on Monday of Ikea’s 2013 catalog side-by-side with the Saudi version, revealing blatantly targeted editing.

In one image, a family of four going through a morning routine in a red and white bathroom, becomes a family of three as Mom disappears in the Saudi photos. Women lounging in chairs, cooking in the kitchen are also plucked from pictures, in some cases, leaving nothing but furniture in view.

In Sweden, these pictures sparked a furor with Swedish European Union minister Birgitta Ohlsson describing the incident as “medieval” on her Twitter account, Al Jazeera reported. 

"These images are yet another lamentable example of how much remains to be done concerning gender equality in Saudi Arabia ... You cannot be airbrushed from reality," Ewa Bjorling, Sweden's Trade Minister told Metro.

But it wasn’t the Saudi Arabian franchise's doing, it turns out. According to The Atlantic Wire, Ikea has released an official statement expressing “regret” for its “mistake.”

“The mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalog for IKEA Saudi Arabia,” it said. “We take full responsibility for the mistakes made.”

In Saudi Arabia, it is not forbidden to depict women in advertising, but there are restriction when it comes to showing skin, the Swedish newspaper reported.

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