In the rest of the world, the IKEA catalog stays pretty much the same, except the language, of course. However, in Saudi Arabia, it was decided no women are allowed.
All the women, and most of the young girls, have been carefully airbrushed from the pages of the IKEA catalog in Saudi Arabia.
The catalog of the world's largest furniture retailer displays exactly the same interiors and products, leaves in the boys and men, but women have no part.
On top of this, while international versions of the same catalog feature all four of IKEA's designers on the cover, the Saudi version only shows three, as they have airbrushed the female designer from the page.
You won't find ladies on the Saudi version of IKEA's website either. However, by chance, the writer did stumble across a video on the Saudi IKEA website, which does feature women.
In the image above, the original shows a mother in front of the bathroom mirror, surrounded by her family. In the Saudi version, the mother is gone.
Another image originally had a barefoot woman with earrings, the Saudi version has a man wearing black socks.
In the image below, the woman is just gone, airbrushed into infinity.
Sweden's Minister of Trade Ewa Björling told the Swedish newspaper, Metro, that the retouched images are a "sad example that shows that there is a long way to go in terms of equality between men and women in Saudi Arabia."
"Women cannot be retouched away in reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to appear [in public] or work, they lose about half their intellectual capital," she added.
According to IKEA spokesperson, Ylva Magnusson, the catalog was designed by an external franchise owner that operates the IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement another spokesperson for IKEA said, “We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values.”
“We are now reviewing our routines to safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point-of-view in the different versions of the IKEA Catalog worldwide,” the spokesperson added.
Nyamko Sabuni, the Swedish Equality Minister, said that IKEA is a private company which makes its own decisions, adding however, that is also projects an image of Sweden to 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 said.
IKEA currently has three stores in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian women live under strict Islamic law and are forbidden to adopt behavior that is common in the Western world. The country is the only one in the world that prohibits women from driving. Women are also not allowed to work, travel or open a bank account unless they have permission from a man to do so.
However, to be fair, this is the second time within the last two weeks that IKEA's photos have caused problems. IKEA apparently removed a photo from its Russian corporate web page which showed four young people wearing balaclavas. As this could have been viewed as a gesture of support for the three jailed Pussy Riot members, they thought it best to remove it.