A Saudi woman in front of a poster honoring King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Jeddah on June 15, 2020. - Amr Nabil / AP / SIPA

In a particularly conservative Saudi Arabia, the process is intended to strengthen the role of women. Authorities on Sunday appointed ten women to important posts in Islam's two most important holy sites. In the kingdom, the appointment of women to high positions in religious institutions is particularly rare. Until 2016, the country even kept Saudi women out of the job market.

A precedent in 2018

To continue, step by step, to change things, the general presidency of the affairs of the two mosques of Mecca and Medina has therefore decided to appoint women in different departments, particularly administrative and technical. Recruitment intended to "strengthen the power of action of highly capable and qualified Saudi women". This is not, however, a first. The two mosques previously recruited 41 women to leadership positions in 2018, according to local media.

The strengthening of women's rights has taken place over the past four years under the leadership of the young Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman as part of his “Vision 2030” plan, which aims to diversify the kingdom's economy and end its dependence on the kingdom. oil. Today, some women run banks, are business leaders, border guards, police officers or even waitresses. In the third quarter of 2019, there were more than one million Saudi women working, representing a total of 35% of the country's labor force. They are also in the majority (84%) among job seekers in the country, which has a high unemployment rate.

NGOs denounce torture

In addition to accessing the labor market, Saudi women can now also drive and obtain a passport without the permission of a male relative. Despite these advances, the Crown Prince is the subject of strong criticism from NGOs, in particular because of increased repression of dissenting voices, such as those of activists who fought to obtain the right to drive and who were allegedly detained afterwards. tortured, according to their relatives.


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