Aisha Bint Abdullah

Aisha Bint Abdullah

Journalist

Saudi Shura members call for women’s high-level military inclusion

In recent months, Saudi women’s empowerment in the military sector been an intermittent topic of discussion in the Kingdom. Now, it is has been wide reopened with several members of the Saudi Shura Council, the consultative assembly of Saudi Arabia, reiterating their support of women’s military inclusion and career progression to the highest rank of “Major General”.

The case of women’s military inclusion in the Kingdom was stirred once again by Saudi Al Watan newspaper, after three Shura council members, among which a female member, rallied behind women’s qualification and capabilities to contribute to the Kingdom’s military sector, in line with the Saudi National Vision 2030.

Tackling the gaps

Saudi Shura council member, Dr. Iqbal Darandari, called for empowering and equipping women with the arsenal they needed to lead on vital roles in the country’s military and security forces. She believes in a holistic framework to this end, and points to a necessary expansion of the scope undertaken by women in military work to keep pace with the country’s ongoing changes.

“Saudi women have consistently climbed up the military and security ranks, from personnel, to soldiers, to sergeants, to chief sergeants,” said Darandari. Saudi women had long been highly involved in military and security work and disciplines, she added, such as the fight against drugs, criminal investigation and inspection, border control, customs, prisons, and security guardianship. However, she noted that “the nature of these jobs remains restricted, despite the support and training offered with them, as their career progression prospects are limited”.

Saudi female military personnel have consistently climbed up the ranks in a male-dominated field. Today, the highest rank held by a Saudi female soldier is that of a deputy sergeant. In theory, the highest rank that can be reached by Saudi women in the military is that of a chief sergeant. Officers, on the other hand, typically start their career progression with the lieutenant role.

Dr. Darandari believes that Saudi women are looking forward to take on larger roles and responsibilities, as have their counterparts in the Gulf, Arab and foreign markets. Their military aspirations reach far and wide to the highest levels and ranks, she affirmed.

Male support

Male Shura members were just as vocal on their support of women’s military capabilities, and potential to reach the highest ranks and career prospects in the field.

There are no restrictions impeding the inclusion of women in Saudi military, even in the higher ranks, confirmed Shura member Dr. Sami Zaidan. Saudi women can “go to war, even if not necessarily by carrying weapons or being at the frontline of combat – as the latter activities may not be suited for their physical build,” Zaidan said. Women’s participation in war combat, he clarified, can offer great value throughout the supply chain management, surveillance work and weapon quality inspection and assurance; all of which open doors for women’s natural progression toward top leadership positions.

To that point, Shura council member Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani believes that there is no glass ceiling for women in the Kingdom’s military sector, so long as the roles they undertake are well-suited for their skill sets, knowledge and expertise areas. Women’s climb to top political roles is proof of their might, Al-Qahtani adds, and of their ability to reach the same high-level ambitions in the military field.

Laying the grounds

Over a month ago, the Saudi Directorate General of Security opened doors for women to apply for positions with the rank of soldier in a number of regions across Saudi Arabia. The move was welcome and perceived by many as another springboard to women’s empowerment and inclusion.

Applicants must be aged between 25 and 35 years old, and are required to hold the Saudi nationality, as well as a minimum of a high school diploma, the directorate specified. With the exception of those who were raised with fathers holding a governmental position outside of the Kingdom, they are also required to have been born and raised in the Kingdom. Moreover, applicants undergo and must pass a series of qualifying tests, interviews and medical examinations, and must abide by strict codes of conduct and behavior.

Given that the soldier rank is an entry-level one, these conditions are considered to form a baseline for any military career tract in the Kingdom. They continue to expand along with the seniority of the ranks.

Despite some objecting to Saudi women’s involvement in inclusion in the military sector, women have proven both competent and capable of taking on roles across institutions and disciplines, from prisons, to customs, to border control, to national guard ranks.

Women in this article

She is an expert and consultant in the field of Measurement, Statistics and Evaluation of Programs and Quality Assurance in public and higher education at King Saud University.

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