Saudi Arabia Current Affairs - 2019

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Saudi Arabia allows women to serve in Armed Forces

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia embarks on a broad programme of economic and social reforms, the country announced that it will allow women in kingdom to serve in armed forces. This move is the latest in a series of measures aimed by country towards women empowerment and increasing the rights of women in kingdom, even as rights groups accuse Saudi Arabia of cracking down on women activists.

Reforms Undertaken in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabiaw which is the world’s largest crude exporter is now pushing to improve its image and attract tourists as part of a plan to diversify its economy away from oil.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has also approved a handful of reforms aimed at widening women’s rights. This includes allowing women to drive and to travel abroad without consent from a male ‘guardian’. Saudi Arabia has also allowed foreign couples to rent hotel rooms.

Earlier in 2018, Saudi Arabia had authorised women to join its security forces and now it has allowed women in kingdom to serve in armed forces. The women would now be able to serve as private first class, corporal or sergeant.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia will offer tourist visas for the first time as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil. The move to open up the ultra-conservative kingdom to holidaymakers comes just two weeks after devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, which has roiled global energy markets.

Key Highlights

Kickstarting tourism in the kingdom is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme so as to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

Country’s tourism attraction treasure includes- 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.

Initially, Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries. The kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, thereby allowing them to go without body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

However, the kingdom, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, is seen by many as a hard sell for tourists.

Prince Mohammed is already seeking to change the way world views Saudi Arabia through a sweeping liberalisation drive that has brought new cinemas, mixed-gender concerts and sporting extravaganzas to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to Build Tourism

In kingdom Visas are restricted to expat workers, their dependents and Muslim pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina, however, in a bid to kickstart tourism Saudi Arabia began issuing visas to visitors for attending cultural and sporting events in 2018.

In 2017, the kingdom announced a multi-billion dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on Red Sea into luxury resorts.

The kingdom is also developing historic sites like centuries-old Mada’in Saleh. This site is home to sandstone tombs of same civilisation which built Petra, the Jordanian city.