Saudi Reforms: Female Soldiers Guard Islam's Holiest Sites for First Time in History

Saudi Arabia is undertaking various steps for empowering women. The recent move of allowing Saudi female officers to guard Islam's holiest sites is being hailed by many. This has happened for the first time in the history of Mecca, as female Saudi guards have started performing heir duties during Hajj.

Saudi Policewomen Stand Guard as Worshippers Circumambulate the Kaaba

Dozens of female soldiers became a part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam, according to ANI news agency. Women were dressed in military khaki uniforms and were monitoring the security situation in the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

'To Serve the Worshippers is a Very Noble and Honourable Task'

Reuters highlighted the story of Mona who joined the first group of Saudi women soldiers who are helping secure the haj annual pilgrimage.

Dressed in a military khaki uniform, with a hip-length jacket, loose trousers and a black beret over a veil covering her hair, Mona spends her shifts roaming in the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

"I am following the steps of my late father to complete his journey, standing here at the Grand mosque in Mecca, the holiest place. To serve the worshippers is a very noble and honourable task," said Mona, who declined to give her family name.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman Reuters

Military-trained Batch, Created Few Months Ago is a Part of Special Security Forces' Homeland Security Unit

According to Gulf News, the 113-strong all-female batch of military-trained officers stationed at the Prophet's Mosque was created few months ago. It is part of the homeland security branch of Saudi Arabia's Special Security Forces. The officers work round the clock in four teams of nearly 18 members each. Their job is to watch over and assist pilgrims performing Umrah. The officers check documents of pilgrims as they arrive to perform their final Tawaf in the Grand Mosque.

A report published in Arab News emphasizes on the dedication and confidence displayed by the female officers in a demanding career that was closed to them until recently. "As part of their professional training, they learned self-defense, first aid and how to use firearms", the report says.

Social Media Users React with Positive Comments

Social media users are welcoming this decision with some saying that this is an era of women empowerment. A Twitter user wrote: "Saudi Arabia under the new leadership of MBS has made women able to serve their country". "Long overdue but never too late," another Twitterati wrote. Some netizens say that this step displays women are equal to men and there is no difference, while others are saying that the recent move can enhance Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia Pixabay

Deployment of Female Saudi Officers can Boost Saudi Vision 2030

Saudi Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism. The first details were announced in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Key goals include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil international trade, and promoting a softer and more secular image of the Kingdom.

Women empowerment is the significant aspect of this vision and can create a great impact on the Saudi society. On 26 September 2017, a royal decree was issued granting women the right to drive vehicles which took effect in June 2018.

In August 2019, Saudi Arabia lifted travel restrictions on women and granted greater control to those above the age of 21. The kingdom altered its 'Male Guardianship System' in June 2021 to allow women to live and travel independently.