The Saudi Ministry of Defence will allow women to join the Saudi armed forces in combat capacities. Several Saudi and Gulf newspapers issued the announcement, which was made this month.
Women can be enlisted for military jobs with ranks from private soldiers to sergeants in the army’s branches of ground, air, air defense and missile forces, and medical services. The way was paved in 2018 when women were allowed to enroll in the military. However, their jobs did not involve combat but instead gave them the opportunity to work in security and passport control.
The Saudi Arabian Armed Forces were established in 1902. They now include the Army, the Navy, the Airforce, and Air Defence and the Missiles Forces, which fall under the Ministry of Defence and Aviation, while the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), the Royal Guard and Border Guard come under the Ministry of National Guard. The enrolment age for men is 17 years. Military service is not compulsory in Saudi Arabia.
This announcement, although unthinkable just two years ago, is not surprising today. Saudi society accepts the empowerment of women, which will include allowing them jobs in every field. Yet, a job for women in combat capacity is a very new idea, and raises the question how many women will join the military. Being in the army is regarded prestigious in Saudi society. Of course, that does not stop many to fear the dangers that come with the job.
In particular members of tribes join the armed forces because it is regarded as an honor to serve and protect the country. Saudi Arabia has a few military academies, but high-ranking officers usually complete their studies abroad. Currently, there are no academies in Saudi Arabia that offer military studies for females. So, how will the government deal with this? Open departments for women in universities? This would mean that women may join, but it will take a few years to establish a basis for women receive education for military service.
The other question is whether there is acceptance among women to join the army for combat, and from what sector of Saudi society the female recruits will come. Over the years, Saudi women have learned to combat the rough and difficult circumstances in which they lived. The choice here is an easier battle.