Five conditions for appointing Saudi women to military jobs
New military posts await Saudi women. On Sunday, February 25, 2018, the Directorate of Public Security announced that women will be recruited for military posts at the rank of soldier in Riyadh, Mecca, Medinah, Al-Qassim, Asir, Al-Baha, and Al-Sharqiya for high school and university graduates.
The Directorate set conditions for applicants who wish to apply for the jobs, including Saudi nationality by birth and origin, is between 25 and 35 years of age and at least 5 feet, 1 inch tall. She must demonstrate good behavior. There are some exceptions, including daughters whose father holds a governmental job abroad. Applicants must pass acceptance tests and complete a personal interview.
The rank of soldier is the lowest among military ranks, therefore criteria required for applicants are lower than for higher ranks.
Not surprisingly, some reject the idea of Saudi women working in the military, claiming the roles are not suitable for women. However, women have demonstrated they are highly capable and are gaining the confidence of Saudi leadership. Women are succeeding in many military sectors including prisons, passport control, border guards, and the National Guard.
Saudi women progressed gradually through the ranks from soldier to first sergeant, to sergeant, then sergeant's agent, the highest rank Saudi women have attained thus far. It is possible women will reach the rank of chief sergeant, the highest rank soldiers can reach. Officer rank begins at lieutenant. So far, women are not allowed to serve in the officer ranks.
Ten years ago, working in prisons was the gateway for Saudi women wishing to occupy military posts. Women who work in prisons are employed in both military and prison guard positions, this is in addition to ordinary civilian jobs. Women do a variety of jobs including supervising security and administrative work, especially programs for women prisoners.
Three years ago, the General Directorate of Prisons established the first specialized center for the training and development of women working in the military and security sectors. The training is divided into seven programs: self-defense, dispersal movements in case of riots, inspection, personal guards, military tasks, military observation works, and guarding facilities from both internal and external positions). Currently no firearms training courses are offered for women. The center plans to establish a police academy for graduate female military personnel, in order to make it possible for women to serve as military officers, rather than being restricted to soldier ranks.
Maha Falah Al-Dossari, general director of training and developing women’s skills in the prison directorate, told Al-Median newspaper in January 2017, that approximately 1,000 women (military and civilian) working in the Kingdom's prisons have been trained by the center by attending courses focused on security, military, and developmental programs related to prison security and internal guards, the safety and protection of prison inmates, as well as combating drugs and contraband.
In November 2010, 30 young Saudi women joined the military service at the rank of soldier in the passport department at a number of border sites, including King Fahd Causeway and Salwa Outlet.
Previously, the Directorate General of Passports hired women in civil jobs to assist with matching identification document photographs with women attempting to enter the Kingdom at the outlets and to provide some review services for passport departments.
Last year, Saudi female soldiers were recruited for the first time alongside the female civil employees at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah to complete procedures for pilgrims. They have undergone intensive training courses in finishing travel procedures. In the past, women have taken fingerprints of travelers as well as photos and other tasks related to developing border procedures.
Border and National Guard
Saudi women work as inspectors and in various military positions at border crossings and in cities, airports, and Saudi ports throughout the Kingdom.
More than 100 women currently work at the Directorate General of the Border Guard. These women have various qualifications ranging from those with secondary education to those who hold doctoral degrees.
According to a former Directorate spokesman, Major General Mohamed Al-Ghamdi, in 2015 the rank of chief sergeant was the highest level a woman could reach in the border guards sector, no matter how much education or experience she brought to the job.
Female sections were created early in 2012 to recruit Saudi women for the National Guard sector.
Strengthening women’s role
Last January, while discussing the annual report of the Ministry of National Guard at the Council’s Security Committee, Shura Council member Fatima Al-Qarni suggested strengthening women’s presence and activating their roles in the National Guard sectors would benefit the women and the Kingdom. Al-Qarni revealed that some Shura members condemned these recommendations to open military jobs to women, indicating their belief that women are intruding in fields and jobs for which they are ill suited.
The demand to increase women’s participation in military sectors in Saudi Arabia coincides with the general movement to empower women and involve them in all areas of life in the Kingdom. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has demonstrated his commitment to improve the status of Saudi women and to increase their participation in various business fields.
This commitment was recently demonstrated in several resolutions, among them allowing women to drive, assigning leadership jobs to women for the first time, and allowing women to start businesses without requiring a guardian’s consent.
These changes are the foundation for encouraging women to participate in military sectors, and ensuring they can achieve military ranks commensurate with their qualifications and abilities.