Peace Time: January 25, 2004


Although Arab nations often restrict opportunities for women, several of them allow women to join the armed forces. For decades, many Arab armies have had women officers and troops working in support functions like medicine, communications and administration. The example of female American soldiers in Saudi Arabia during the 1990-91 Gulf War inspired many Gulf States to allow women into the armed forces. In 1990, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) set up a training course for female recruits. Female American soldiers helped set up the operation. Some 1,200 women applied, but only 74 were accepted. Two of the top graduates were sent to Britain for officer training at the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst). The others were given jobs as bodyguards for female members of the royal family, or in support units (like military intelligence.) Kuwait has accepted female recruits since the 1991 war and women served in the Iraqi military. Compared to Western armed force, the number of women in Arab armed forces is small, but it is growing. And there are always far more volunteers than there are positions. 

Women play a prominent role in Arab military history, especially among the nomadic tribes (like the Bedouin), where women customarily rode horses and camels and used weapons. This is a sore point in Saudi Arabia, where the ban on women driving, and restrictions on working outside the home, are rather recent. Elderly Saudis remember that, before the oil money showed up in the 1950s, it was common for women to ride horses and camels, and to mix freely with men at weddings and other social occasions. 

Other Islamic countries also use women in the military. The Turks have had women in non-combat units for a long time, although only men are conscripted. Bangladesh just graduated it's first class of twenty female officers, two years after the army began recruiting women. 


Article Archive

Peace Time: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close