JAFFA, Israel – An officer in the Saudi army has sparked controversy in the kingdom after he said he intended to recruit women into his special security unit.
Saad Elijabry, commander of the Unit for Protection of Special Facilities, said at an induction ceremony for 1,400 new operatives that a suggestion to expand women’s participation in the unit from administrative roles to operational ones is under review.
According to Elijabry, the new female recruits would be charged with dealing with the security clearance of female personnel as well as preventing the smuggling of dangerous substances into the facilities.
“The implementation of the plan will be in keeping with Sharia law,” he said. “We will soon publish the findings of our inquiry into the matter.”
Some on social media reacted with fervor. Commenters were split by and large along gender lines.
“In the Prophet’s time, women shared the military burden,” one woman tweeted, and got an angry response: “While we’re at conjuring up women from the Prophet’s days, maybe it’s time you adhere to their modesty rules. Every time someone points it out you get mad.”
Another woman wrote: “Let’s start with letting women drive and worry about military service later.” Another tweeted: “Before the army, I’d like to see women ministers and advisers to the king, as well as legislation on gender equality.”
“I’m not prepared to serve a country that is ashamed of me and considers me as immodest, while depriving me of my basic rights,” another woman commented. “Let the men continue to join the army. As far as you’re concerned, we’re here by mistake.”
One male commenter lampooned women’s presumed ineptitude for the role: “Headquarters sends an order to dispatch forces to the site of an incident. Captain Johara [a woman’s name] answers: ‘Roger, HQ. But I refuse to go if Captain Mariam goes.'”