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How IKEA cut women out of its Saudi Arabian catalogue… and wished they hadn't

Early this month Sweden's edition of Metro newspaper revealed how IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant with stores in 40 countries, had removed images of women from the Saudi Arabian edition of its 2013 product catalogue. The company's decision seems to have been based on cultural expectations in Saudi Arabia, where women depicted in materials from Western countries are often blacked out by censors.

IKEA has since apologised for the move, saying that the error is "ultimately our responsibility."

"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," IKEA said in a statement – but not before critics around the world satirised IKEA by replacing women in iconic photos with IKEA products.

The German branch of feminist movement Femen also staged a topless protest against IKEA's decision. On 24 October in an IKEA near Hamburg, three women held signs and painted their chests with slogans such as, “You can remove us from the catalogue but you cannot remove us from reality.”

This isn't the first time IKEA has whipped up political controversy. Just last month a photo of customers wearing Pussy Riot-style ski masks was removed from an online contest on the Russian IKEA website.

Click on the image below to open the gallery and to see what all the fuss is about.

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