MECCA, Saudi Arabia, July 21 (Reuters) – Inspired by the career of her late father, Mona decided to join the military and the first group of Saudi female soldiers to work in Islam’s holiest sites, where they help to secure the annual haj pilgrimage.
Since April, dozens of female soldiers have joined the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, cradles of Islam.
Dressed in a khaki military uniform, jacket to the hips, baggy pants and a black beret over a veil covering her hair, Mona spends her hours wandering the Grand Mosque of Mecca.
“I follow in my late father’s footsteps to end his journey, standing here at the Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest place. Serving the faithful is a very noble and honorable task, ”said Mona, who refused to give her family a name.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushed through social and economic reforms as part of plans to modernize the conservative Muslim kingdom and attract foreign investment as part of a diversification drive.
As part of his reform plan, known as Vision 2030, the crown prince lifted the driving ban for women, allowed adult women to travel without permission from their guardians, and granted them more. control over family matters.
But the reform plan has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against women’s rights activists.
Saudi Arabia has limited the haj to its own citizens and residents for the second year in a row, banning millions of other pilgrims from abroad in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Samar, another soldier observing pilgrims near the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure that Muslims say was built by Abraham, said she was encouraged by her family to join the army, after psychology studies.
“It is a huge accomplishment for us and it is the greatest pride to be at the service of the religion, the country and the guests of God, the most merciful,” she said.
Written by Marwa Rashad in London; Editing by Alexandra Hudson
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