Leadership: July 12, 2005

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There arent too many women in the armed forces of Arab nations, much less female generals. One exception is Jordanian brigadier general Aisha Bint Al Hussein. Actually, shes a sister of the current king, which makes her other title Her Royal Highness Princess Aisha Bint Al Hussein. That explains part of it, but the 37 year old general al Hussein, as a teenager, persuaded her father, who she took after in many ways, to let her undergo military training. She excelled at it, especially marksmanship and commando exercises. The late king Hussein survived so many years by having trusted family members in military and police positions, so Princess Aisha was allowed to remain in the army. Aishas mother was the kings second wife, and the daughter of a British army officer. Aisha got the military interests from both sides of the family. Aisha went to school in the United States for ten years (from when she was eight years old) and completed military parachute training while still a high school student. She married at age 22 and had two children, but returned to the military when the kids were old enough for school. General Aisha has been instrumental in getting more women into the Jordanian armed forces. Combat training for everyone is actually something of a Bedouin tradition (the Hussein family are considered Bedouins), and for a long time, Bedouin women learned to ride horses and camels, and use weapons. In the 19th century, when firearms became common among the Bedouin, women became even more lethal as warriors, because firing a rifle did not require the muscle of the older weapons (swords, spears and bows.) In Saudi Arabia, where women are not even allowed to drive a car, the older women still remember the freedom women had as recently as the 1950s. During that time, Islamic conservatives began imposing more restrictions on women as the Bedouin nomads settled down. But in Jordan, the women still have much freedom, in the ancient Bedouin tradition. This causes some friction, as the urban and rural Arabs adopted a much more restrictive attitude towards women. However, the old ways are remembered, and are increasingly being seen as the future for women in the Middle East.

 


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