SRINAGAR: Though the women in Saudi Arabia have been associated with marginal roles in the management and the upkeep of the twin holy sites of Islam since 2017, this is for the first time that they are getting formal roles. Both at the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid-e-Nabvi in Madina, women have been given roles in security and upkeep of the two sites, reports appearing in media within and outside Saudi Arabi said.
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This is being seen as the modernization plans for the Vision 2030 envisaged by one of Saudi’s most powerful and totalitarian Crown Prince’s, Mohammed bin Salman.
“Female guards are seen wearing official uniforms as they perform their duties at the Grand Mosque, with the caption: “From the field. Security guards for Hajj,” one report in an Indian newspaper said. “Earlier, the Saudi Ministry of Defence had announced that both men and women could apply for various military positions. In December last year (2020) alone, the Iruharam office recruited about 1,500 women to various sections of the Masjid-ul-Haram.”
“Dozens of female officers are currently deployed both in Makkah and Madinah, where they are providing security and managing worshippers at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. The fact that their daily work is now considered a matter, of course, is a signal achievement of the Kingdom’s five-year-old Vision 2030,” influential kingdom newspaper Arab News reported. It has been a gradual process since 2016 and they have been involved in Haj and Umrah.
“The 113-strong all-female batch of military-trained officers stationed at the Prophet’s Mosque was created six months ago. It is part of the homeland security branch of Saudi Arabia’s Special Security Forces. The officers work round the clock in four teams of nearly 18 members each,” the newspaper added. “Their job, according to a statement by Major-General Abdul Rahman Al-Mashhan, director of the Madinah Police, is to watch over and assist pilgrims performing Umrah.”
Dressed in mocha-coloured uniforms, black berets and with their faces partially veiled, the young officers oversee a section of the mosque to guide and assist female worshippers and enforce the government’s COVID-19 protocols. They are trained in self-defense, first aid and of use firearms and are well versed with Arabic and English.
The newspaper added: “From a historical perspective, the deployment of female officers in the two holy cities is one of the many remarkable changes that Saudi Arabia has witnessed since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Vision 2030 plan in April 2016.”