Saudi Arabia’s modernizing efforts continue with the addition of female soldiers to the armed forces.
Rabat – Women can now serve as lance corporals, corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants in Saudi Arabia’s military.
Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat was the first to report the announcement yesterday. The news came in a statement from the Ministry General Directorate of Admission and Recruitment in the Armed Forces.
The new rule applies to Saudi Arabia’s land, air, and naval forces, as well as missile forces, and medical services.
The move is part of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030,” which aims to empower women and increase their active participation at all levels of society.
“Women’s admission into the most important ministry in the kingdom is a major step in the right direction,” Hassan al-Shihiri, a former official at the Saudi Defense Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In an effort to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependency on oil, the monarchy is implementing various social and economic reforms to modernize the country and attract more foreign investment.
The evolution of Saudi women’s rights
Until quite recently, the women of Saudi Arabia were limited in mobility, economic opportunity, and rights. The Kingdom has slowly been granting women more freedoms in an effort to improve its image in the international community.
Saudi women were allowed into football stadiums for the first time in September 2017.
As of August 2019, Saudi women over the age of 21 can apply for a passport and travel without a male guardian’s permission.
Even more recently, the Kingdom opened its doors to tourists from 52 countries and territories and relaxed dress-code requirements for foreign women. Women are now also permitted to visit the country without a man to accompany them.
Last year, Saudi women earned the right to drive after decades of campaigns and protests. However, many of the women’s rights activists who fought this battle for years are still imprisoned.
Critics of the Kingdom denounce these new freedoms for Saudi women as a smokescreen meant to distract from the ongoing human rights violations in the country.
In early 2018, Saudi Arabia first allowed women to apply for military service but their ranks were limited to positions in public security, customs, criminal investigations, and drug combat. Now, women will be able to achieve senior positions in the Saudi Armed Forces.
Empowering women has become an important aspect of the country’s economy, according to Shura Council Member Haya al-Maneea. Al-Maneea spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat saying that believes the Kingdom’s national vision emphasizes equality between men and women.
“I will not say the ball is now in the women’s court, but I am confident that women’s achievements can soon happen.”