Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it will allow women in the kingdom to serve in senior positions in the armed forces, Al Jazeera reported. “Another step to empowerment,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a tweet, adding that women can now serve as first soldier, corporal, deputy sergeant and sergeant.
The kingdom had in 2018 allowed women to join its security forces.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has passed a series of reforms over the past two years. Cinemas opened in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years last year in April 2018, with the screening of the Hollywood film Black Panther. The kingdom lifted its ban on movie theatres in December 2017.
On June 24 last year, the kingdom had lifted its ban on women driving cars. Women have also been allowed to travel abroad without being chaperoned by a male guardian.
Last month, the conservative Muslim country opened up to foreign tourists from 49 countries in an attempt to expand the tourism sector and diversify its oil export-dependent economy. Visitors will need to dress modestly, and alcohol remains banned. The government is aiming for 100 million annual visits by 2030. Saudi Arabia is also now allowing women, including Saudis, to rent hotel rooms by themselves in a break with tradition and previous strict regulations.
However, Saudi Arabia continues to be panned in the international press, for its crackdown on several prominent women’s rights campaigners, including activist Loujain al-Hathloul. Al-Hathloul is among a few detainees who have accused the Saudi government of torture in prison.
The kingdom also received much criticism last year after Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. United Nations expert Agnes Callamard said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be investigated for Khashoggi’s murder because of “credible evidence” that he and other senior officials were liable for the killing.
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