Riyadh gives green light to women in the Armed Forces

They will have access to the army, air force, navy, strategic missile sector and medical services. Candidates must be between 21 and 40 years old, be at least 155 centimetres tall and cannot be married to foreigners. Higher ranks of a military career excluded.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi women will be able to embark on a military career and join the Armed Forces, announced the Riyadh Ministry of Defense today.

Thus women, as is now the case in much of the world, will be able to enlist in the army, in the air force, navy, strategic missile sector and medical services (doctors and nurses in uniforms).

Analysts and experts explain that the decision is part of the “Vision 2030” reform plan wanted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs), aimed at freeing the country from dependence on oil by strengthening tourism and technologies.

With the fall of this further barrier, women will be able to find new employment opportunities in sectors - such as the military - until now reserved only for men; in the recent past they had obtained the removal of the driving ban and the possibility of working in restaurants or as shop assistants.

According to the Saudi Ministry of Defence, men and women can now apply for positions in the army through a unified admission portal, valid for both genders. Women will also be able to become soldiers, corporals and sergeants, although top ranks will remain precluded. Candidates must be between the ages of 21 and 40 and be at least 155cm tall.

Other requirements include, in addition to passing the admission tests, there is also a clean criminal record and suitability for service. A woman must also hold an independent national identity card, have at least a high school diploma and cannot be married to a foreigner or already be a government employee.

Operating systems specialist, Halah Al-Ynabawi, said Arab countries allowing women in the military has been a controversial topic over the past 30 years:” "In my personal opinion, it is very important for women to be in the military, where they can have an active role in our conservative society.” Rahma Al-Khayri, an information technology specialist, instead says: “Throughout history, we have not heard of a woman who came to the field and fought…the man is the one who fights in the field.”

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute Sunni monarchy, based on a Wahhabi fundamentalist view of Islam.

Over the past two years, the Crown Prince’s social reforms included granting women the right to drive cars and to attend sporting events in designated areas of stadiums.

However, the authorities have also cracked down on senior officials, business people, activists and critical voices, most notably in the Jamal Khashoggi affair, raising questions about the real extent of change.