Mecca: In a first, a group of Saudi women soldiers has become part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplace of Islam.
Dressed in a military khaki uniform, with a hip-length jacket, loose trousers and a black beret over a veil covering her hair, Mona, who joined the military after being inspired by her late father’s career, spends her shifts roaming in the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed through social and economic reforms as part of plans to modernise the conservative Muslim kingdom and attract foreign investment under a diversification drive.
Under his reform plan, known as Vision 2030, the crown prince lifted a driving ban on women, allowed adult women to travel without permission from guardians and granted them more control over family matters.
But the reform plan has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including on women’s rights activists.
Saudi Arabia has restricted the haj to its own citizens and residents for the second year in a row, barring millions of other pilgrims from abroad in response to the coronavirus pandemic.