As part of incremental progress towards more freedom for women in the incredibly conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women in private schools will now be allowed to play sports.

Saudi Arabia's official press agency said that the schools are now allowed to hold sport activities in accordance with sharia law, and the girls must wear "decent dress" at all times.

"It's about time," said Aziza Youssef, a professor at King Saud University told the Guardian. "Everything is being held back in Saudi Arabia as far as women's rights."

Saudi education ministry spokesman, Mohammed al-Dakhini, told reporters that the decision "stems from the teachings of our religion, which allow women such activities in accordance with sharia".

Women's sports mostly operate underground in Saudi Arabia, since women's gyms were closed in 2010.

This move is seen as a step in a larger project of allowing more freedom for women, which will include women being allowed to run for office for the first time in 2015. Women are still not allowed to drive cars or participate in much of civic life without the permission of a man.