‘An honor and duty:’ Meet the female Saudi officers guarding the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

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. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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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. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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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. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 29 April 2021

‘An honor and duty:’ Meet the female Saudi officers guarding the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

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. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
  • Dressed in tan uniforms, veils and black berets, the 113 officers assist pilgrims and worshippers at the mosque
  • Military-trained batch, created six months ago, part of Special Security Forces’ homeland security unit

MADINAH: Few media images have captured the impressive strides Saudi Arabia has made toward the empowerment of women and gender equality since 2016 like the recent photos of a smartly uniformed female security officer guiding Umrah pilgrims in Makkah during Ramadan.

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.

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.

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-colored 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 exude the confidence that comes from succeeding in a demanding career that was closed to them until recently. As part of their professional training, they learned self-defense, first aid and how to use firearms. They also had to enroll for courses in Arabic and English (to improve their communication skills), computer education and fitness.

Hanan Al-Rashidi, 27, who has been a soldier for all of eight months, said she accepted the job because it is a form of humanitarian service. “I am full of joy. It is an honor to work at the Prophet’s Mosque and serve the guests of Allah,” she told Arab News.

Al-Rashidi expresses pride in flying the flag for Saudi Vision 2030 and regards the current era as one of female empowerment.

”I am grateful to be working in this position. Our leadership has given us so many opportunities. From driving to working in any field, women are equal to men. There is no difference,” she said.

Reem Al-Mahjoob, 27, who has been performing security duties in Madinah for the past six months, echoed Al-Rashidi’s sentiments. She pointed out that Vision 2030 has empowered Saudi women to take up jobs in such diverse fields as the military, aviation and government. 

”This is the era of women,” Al-Mahjoob told Arab News. “Women are now able to join the military among many other sectors they have always wanted to enter.”

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.

Empowerment of women — including their economic inclusion and workforce participation — is one of the key objectives of the Vision 2030 programs.

As part of the strategy, Saudi Arabia has not only introduced legal reforms but also funded projects and initiatives in a number of sectors — including tourism, investment and culture — that have created opportunities for women.

Along with these initiatives, government sectors have committed to guaranteeing and protecting women’s rights in the workplace. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has worked to reduce gender-based discrimination and find ways to create safe work environments that foster growth and innovation.

Women have also played their part in creating legislation and opening businesses and have taken a leading role in private-sector investment. Saudi Arabia now has its first female professional racing driver, female ambassadors, female judges, and award-winning female filmmakers.




The 113-strong all-female batch of military-trained officers stationed at the Prophet’s Mosque was created six months ago. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

The pace of progress towards gender equality in the defense sector has been particularly impressive. Saudi Arabia decided three years ago to allow women to join the military.

In 2020, the first military wing for women in Saudi Arabia’s armed forces was launched. In February this year, the Ministry of Defense announced that men and women in the Kingdom could apply for positions in the military through a unified admission portal.

Among the positions now open to women are lance corporal, corporal, sergeant and staff sergeant, with a long line of prospective employers, including the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force and Armed Forces Medical Services.

Female police officers joined the ranks of Makkah’s security force for the first time during last summer’s Hajj season, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.




The freshly minted officers in Madinah look out for hawkers and beggars while making sure that measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 are respected by visitors. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Like them, the all-female contingent stationed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah proves that anything Saudi men can do, Saudi women can do too, and that no matter how masculine a job may seem to traditionalists, it can always benefit from a woman’s touch.

The freshly minted officers in Madinah look out for hawkers and beggars while making sure that measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 are respected by visitors. Al-Hanouf Al-Gomzi, 29, who comes from a family with a defense background, said she finds her posting in the holy city hugely rewarding.

“The feeling is completely indescribable,” she told Arab News. “I’m at the Prophet’s Mosque watching over the visitors. I’m very proud of myself and my colleagues.”

As a case in point, she cited a situation that required her to be quick on her feet. “A 50-year-old woman fainted here at the mosque. I called the ambulance team right away and the woman was very well taken care of,” she recalled.

To be able to work in the military is a source of immense pride for Al-Gomzi. “I was able to join my brothers in this field. I wanted to join this sector more than any other,” she told Arab News.

Speaking about Saudi Arabia today, she said: “We now find women working in many fields. They are almost equal to men.”

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Twitter: @DeemaAlkhudair


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
Updated 09 May 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
  • The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects
  • The coalition confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law

DUBAI: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects.

The coalition also confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law.

The Iran-backed militia has been intensifying attacks against Saudi Arabia, targeting key oil facilities and civilians amid international and Arab condemnation in support of the Kingdom’s security.

 


KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
The findings revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities. (Social media)
Updated 09 May 2021

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
  • Saudis reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found

JEDDAH: A new poll has revealed that Saudis reduced their participation in social events by more than 70 percent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.
Saudis also reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found. During Ramadan, 42 percent of people maintained regular levels physical exercise, while 39 percent of respondents said they watched less television.
The findings also revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and that 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities.
Speaking to Arab News, Arwa Meer, an admin supervisor at a Jeddah hospital, said that she had reduced her social activities due to the nature of her work environment.
“Last Ramadan, I was working for the whole period of the COVID-19 curfews and lockdowns. Even if I had time, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was in constant contact with COVID-19 cases. That was something that made me refrain from seeing anyone,” Meer told Arab News.
However, this year has also created a similar situation, she said. “There’s potential exposure to COVID-19 cases as I continue my work at the hospital. Some of my colleagues got infected, so that made me refrain from social gatherings and visits even more. Even with my family at home, I try to avoid physical contact with them as much as possible, just as a precaution not to possibly infect anyone if I was a carrier.”
When asked if her visits to friends had also changed, the supervisor said the pandemic forced her to become “less social.”
She added: “The pandemic has made us all a little less social actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen my friends. I see them maybe once a month. This Ramadan, I didn’t see my friends at all, not for iftar or sahoor.”

HIGHLIGHT

The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.

Sharing the same sentiment, 28-year-old Talal Al-Shammari from Jeddah said that it is “only natural” that family visits will decrease during the current circumstances.
“Nobody wants to be put in such a situation to be infected in the first place. Everyone is afraid for their family members over themselves,” he told Arab News. “No one would ever want to harm their relatives or friends, especially the elderly, those with a weaker immune system or children.”
The survey found that online shopping was also unaffected during Ramadan when compared with previous levels.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of people surveyed reported that higher levels of advertising during Ramadan did not affect their buying decisions. “Another surprising result is that the majority (79 percent) were reluctant to eat in restaurants during Ramadan,” the survey said.
Other results revealed that total hours of sleep during Ramadan increased for just 25 percent of respondents, while the majority of those surveyed said that they did not “significantly change their lifestyles” during Ramadan.
The survey also found that 58 percent of people did not notice a change in their moods or emotions during the period.
Work discipline remained the same for 81 percent of people, as did working hours for 79 percent of respondents.
The Saudi Center for Opinion Polling is a not-for-profit organization authorized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, and the Ministry of Commerce.


Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
  • The authority intensified COVID-19 preventive measures inside the Two Holy Mosques

JEDDAH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia intensified preparations to receive pilgrims and worshipers for the 27th and 29th nights of the Muslim month of Ramadan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Hani bin Hosni Haider, spokesman for the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said the authority intensified coronavirus preventive measures, particularly purification and sterilization operations, and technical and transportation operations, including providing vehicles inside the Two Holy Mosques.
Haidar said staff are working around the clock and have also intensified regulating entry and exit mechanisms and services provided to pilgrims and worshipers under the supervision of head of the presidency, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais.
He said that the presidency coordinated with relevant authorities to organize the movement of pilgrims and worshippers inside the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and its squares, to ensure their safety and to fulfill the precautionary health requirements.
Haidar said the “presidency was keen to intensify its efforts to achieve the aspirations of the Kingdom’s leadership and highlight the great efforts the state is making toward the Two Holy Mosques.”


Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
  • A total of 41 people have been arrested in connection with the drug smuggling attempts

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested several people in connection with the seizure of a large quantity of illegal drugs in the Jazan and Najran regions.
Lt. Col. Mesfer bin Ghanam Al-Quraini, spokesman for the Border Guards, said that the seizures came as part of the continuous monitoring of criminal drug activities targeting the Kingdom.
Al-Quraini added that 802 kilograms of hashish was seized in Jazan and Najran, and 25 individuals suspected to be involved in the smuggling operation were arrested, including 14 Yemeni nationals, four Ethiopians, three Saudis, two Somalis and two Pakistanis.
He said that among several other security operations conducted by the Border Guards, 25.4 tons of khat were seized in the Jazan region and 16 people were arrested, all of whom are Yemeni nationals.
The spokesman said: “The Border Guards will continue to carry out their tasks with great determination to confront attempts to smuggle narcotic substances across all borders, and arrest those involved.”


Saudi Arabia’s Hail region arrests 11 people in quarantine measure bust

Saudi Arabia’s Hail region arrests 11 people in quarantine measure bust
Preliminary legal measures have been taken against those arrested in preparation for their referral to the Saudi Public Prosecution. (SPA)
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Hail region arrests 11 people in quarantine measure bust

Saudi Arabia’s Hail region arrests 11 people in quarantine measure bust
  • Saudi Arabia has administered more than 10.3 million COVID-19 vaccines so far

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities have said that they are “remaining vigilant” and continuing to penalize people who violate health and quarantine measures in the Kingdom.
On Saturday, media spokesman for Hail region police Tariq Al-Nassar said that 11 people were arrested in the region for violating quarantine rules after they were notified of positive COVID-19 tests.
Preliminary legal measures have been taken against those arrested in preparation for their referral to the Saudi Public Prosecution.
Provisions and penalties mean that those who violate quarantine instructions will be punished with a fine not exceeding SR200,000 ($53,000), or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.
If the violation is repeated, the punishment is doubled. Expats who violate these terms and repeat an offense will be deported and prohibited from returning to the Kingdom after completing a sentence.

FASTFACT

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 425,442.

On Saturday, 997 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the Kingdom, meaning that 425,442 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease.
Saturday also saw 1,026 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries over the course of the pandemic to 408,676. The Kingdom’s death toll rose to 7,059 after 14 new COVID-19-related deaths were recorded.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 10.3 million COVID-19 vaccines so far.
There were 69,482 PCR tests carried out in the past 24 hours, raising the total number conducted in the Kingdom to more than 17.4 million.