Asia

Arab armies are finally recruiting women

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syrian army

Image: Syria Internet

The governments of many Arab countries aren’t known for the equality with which women are treated. While certain Arab countries are more egalitarian, others like Saudi Arabia have intense restrictions on what women are allowed to do. In Saudi Arabia, women are not even allowed to drive. These restrictions on women have extended to the military. While many countries around the world have expanded the roles in the military available to women, Arab armies have not followed suit.

Now, however, that equality of opportunity is beginning to spread to the militaries of even these countries. Part of this is a practical consideration. Many cultures in the area require a strict segregation of the sexes, meaning that male soldiers are not able to interact with female civilians. This is particularly problematic for tasks such as searching potential terror suspects for weapons. Thus, having a corps of female soldiers allows for additional security procedures.

A number of constitutional objections have been raised in countries like Egypt, where equality is technically enshrined in law, challenging the reluctance of the Egyptian military to admit female soldiers to the ranks. This is a trend that has extended to many other countries in the region such as Tunisia and Algeria.

The majority of tasks that women are allowed to perform in these militaries has been limited to these sorts of actions, though there are a number of countries which are also opening up combat roles. The Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad, though certainly not an upstanding example of respect for human rights, has been particularly open to recruiting female soldiers, especially as snipers, where it is believed that they are more effective than male troops.

Some have argued that these soldiers have played a significant role in the ability of the Syrian Army to withstand the assaults of rebel groups and terrorist organizations, accounting for the regimes surprising ability to withstand such widespread opposition.

While it is clear that the addition of female troops in Arab armies may enable some of the regions more oppressive regimes to hold on to power, the step is also a clear indication of a growing sense of equality between the sexes in the region.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.