Saudi women stand guard in Mecca for hajj for first time

Saudi women stand guard in Mecca for hajj for first time
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Dozens of women in Saudi Arabia are standing guard in Mecca for the first time to help secure the hajj annual pilgrimage, Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

One female soldier told the news agency that she joined the forces in honor of her late father, who also served in the military. 

"I am following the steps of my late father to complete his journey, standing here at the Grand mosque in Mecca, the holiest place. To serve the worshippers is a very noble and honourable task,” the woman told Reuters. 

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Another soldier named Samar said she was encouraged by her family to join the forces, calling it “a huge accomplishment for us,” Reuters reported. 

"This is a huge accomplishment for us and it is the biggest pride to be in the service of religion, the country and the guests of God, the most merciful," Samar said. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has created the Vision 2030 reform to help modernize the Saudi Kingdom. The new reform has allowed Muslim women in the country to begin driving, to travel without permission from guardians and to have more control over family issues, Reuters noted.

Crown Prince Mohammed has also come under criticism for a crackdown on dissent, and continues to be under a cloud in the United States and around the world because of the killing of a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Muslim women soldiers have been serving in military services that protect the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, which are considered the holy sites of Islam. 

The Saudi government has restricted hajj for the second straight year to its own citizens, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reuters.