Saudi Arabia stations women police officers in its holy cities for first time

Saudis and expatriates took to social media to share pictures and videos of the officers

A Saudi officer stands inside a mosque.  Courtesy Saudi Interior Ministry
A Saudi officer stands inside a mosque.  Courtesy Saudi Interior Ministry

Images of the first Saudi women security officers stationed in The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and in the Grand Mosque in Makkah are creating a buzz on social media.

For the first time in Saudi Arabia's history, women are serving in security and armed forces roles in the holy mosques as part of the new Vision 2030 reforms launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016.

The team of 113 military-trained officers, who are working around the clock in 18-woman shifts, learnt self-defence, arms training, first aid and English.

Maj Gen Abdul Rahman Al Mashhan, director of the Madinah Police, said their job is to protect and assist pilgrims in the Grand Mosque.

The women’s team is part of the homeland security branch of Saudi Arabia’s Special Security Forces and was created six months ago.

“This is an emotional moment for me. I have spent 57 years of my life in the kingdom and to see a woman in a police uniform at such a high level and in a place like Makkah, I was overwhelmed and in tears. We have come so far. This is a significant achievement and a step towards all that we will change and accomplish with Vision 2030,” Umm Al Suwad, a Saudi resident, told The National.

Saudis and expatriates took to social media to share pictures and videos of the officers, dressed smartly in brown uniforms.

Many fathers expressed pride in their daughters' service, pointing out that there is no difference between men and women in Islam and both should be given equal opportunities.

“We have always seen men in these uniforms. To see a woman in the armed forces and military is something we never imagined for our women. [Prince Mohammed] has made this all possible. I hope my daughters can one day serve the nation in a similar way,” said Abubaker, a Saudi resident.

A woman officer stands guard inside a mosque.  Courtesy Saudi Interior Ministry
A woman officer stands guard inside a mosque.  Courtesy Saudi Interior Ministry

Women's empowerment is one of the key objectives of Vision 2030. The Saudi crown prince celebrated the fifth anniversary of the programme in an interview on state TV on Tuesday.

The decision to allow women to serve in the military was made three years ago. The Saudi Interior Ministry released a video showing women training and working in various security fields this month.

The change is part of a long-term plan to create equal opportunities for women and to reduce the gender gap in the workplace.

Updated: April 29, 2021 05:00 PM

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