Saudi Arabia appointed a woman as deputy Labour minister in a cabinet reshuffle aimed to promote young officials to prominent economic and security posts.
The changes, announced in a string of royal decrees late Monday by King Salman, came a month before the third anniversary of the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen war.
Tamadur bint Youssef Al Ramah's appointment as deputy Labour minister was seen as a breakthrough for women in the kingdom, while the military chief of staff, air defence and land forces leaders and senior defence and interior ministry officials were removed.
King Salman replaced the heads of ground and air forces as well as several other deputy ministers in a move aimed at updating the country's defence ministry. It includes a new strategy to improve the organisation and governance of the ministry, the national news agency said, without providing further detail.
"Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh Al Bunyan, Chief of Staff," it said, adding that Fayyad Al Ruwaili had been appointed as his replacement.
No official reason was given for the changes but the decision was made "upon the recommendation" of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defence minister, state media said.
Ahmed Al Towayan, a Saudi analyst, speaking on state television, said the new appointments were "pumping young blood" into local government while elevating young commanders into top military posts.
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Since Prince Mohammed bin Salman became heir to the thrown the kingdom has began major economic and social reforms.
From June, women will be allowed to drive and have been recruited to work in ground services in airports. While, the appointment of Mrs Al Ramah came one day after the government announced on Sunday that women can apply to be soldiers for the first time in modern history of the country, the state agency announced.
A senior Saudi cleric said last month that women need not wear the abaya, a loose-fitting, full-length robe. Although, Sheikh Al Mutlaq's statement does not necessarily signal a change in the law. But it did mark the first time that a senior Saudi cleric had made such remarks.
The Kingdom also announced that women no longer need the consent of a male relative to open their own businesses, a step away from the kingdom’s guardianship system.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has spearheaded Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s post-oil economic plan, aimed at moving the country away from its economic dependence on oil.
As part of the initiative, the government also aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
The Crown Prince is proving popular with many Saudi youths, who make up the vast majority of the population.
King Salman's decree also includes the appointment of three deputy governors from among the descendants of Princes Ahmed, Talal and Muqrin – brothers of King Salman.
One of them, the new deputy governor of Asir province, Prince Turki bin Talal, is the brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was among the 200-some princes, ministers and tycoons detained in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in the government's anti-corruption campaign.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was released last month.