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Women can now join armed forces in Saudi Arabia

Women can now join the military in Saudi Arabia, allowing them to serve as private first class, corporal or sergeant.

Roles have been opened in the Saudi royal land forces, royal air forces, royal navy, royal Saudi air defence forces and medical services for armed forces.

Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said on Twitter: “Great news. I look forward to watching Saudi Arabia’s women lead across many industries, including serving in the country’s military.”

The Saudi foreign ministry posted an image explaining the new roles, which the ministry billed as “another milestone in Saudi women empowerment”.

The announcement comes two days after Saudi Arabia announced it would allow foreign men and women to share hotel rooms without proving they are married.

It is a move away from its traditionally strict social code and in order to grow its tourism industry, all women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms without a male family member.

Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room in the Gulf state, where sex outside of marriage is banned.

Women in Saudi Arabia were given the legal right to drive in 2018
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Women in Saudi Arabia were given the legal right to drive in 2018

Last week, the oil-rich nation launched a new tourist visa system for 49 countries to attract holidaymakers and investors in the hope of diversifying its economy away from oil exports.

As part of the move, visitors will not need to wear all-covering black robes but must dress modestly, and alcohol remains banned.

Announcing the changes on Friday, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said: “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required of foreign tourists.”

The liberalising reforms are part of de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030, a plan to reduce the kingdom’s economic reliance on oil.

It has seen a number of changes to the country’s laws, including allowing women to drive, which are intended to encourage future tourism in Saudi Arabia and to improve the country’s reputation in the West.

However, critics have accused Saudi Arabia of continuing to subjugate women and other rights abuses.

Loujain al-Hathloul. Pic: Family handout
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Loujain al Hathloul has been detained for 500 days

One example is the case of Loujain al Hathloul, one of a group of female activists who has been detained in Saudi Arabia for more than 500 days.

Her family have claimed she has been tortured while in detention, something the kingdom denies.

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