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Ikea's Saudi Arabian catalog is missing something: women

Furniture giant IKEA is apologizing after it emerged that the Swedish company erased female models from its catalogue in Saudi Arabia. The firm says the edits do not align with its values. TODAY's Natalie Morales reports.

Scrubbing the bathroom got a whole new meaning in the Saudi Arabian Ikea catalog. The Swedish home and furnishings retailer faced criticism after reports surfaced that Ikea digitally erased women from pictures in the Saudi version of the catalog.

In one picture of a family in a bathroom, the mother standing at the sink with her son was removed. Even one of the retailer’s own designers, Clara Gausch, was erased from a photo featuring four of the brand’s designers.

Now you see her. Now you don't. The image on the left appeared in Ikea's Swedish catalog. The same image, sans the woman, in the Saudi Arabian catalog.

Sweden’s trade minister Ewa Björling told the newspaper Metro the vanishing women were a "sad example" of gender inequality in Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive and must be covered in public.

In a statement to the BBC, the company said "excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values." It blamed the missing women on the franchisee who runs Ikea’s Saudi operations and said, “We do not accept any kind of discrimination.” Ikea did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

In January, privately-held Ikea Group announced it earned a profit of 2.97 billion euros in its 2011 fiscal year and opened seven new stores. Ikea has three stores in Saudi Arabia.