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Saudi soldier conducts Kingdom’s first female-led security briefing for Hajj season

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Saudi Arabian soldier Abeer al-Rashed conducted the country’s first-ever female-led security forces briefing for Hajj on Tuesday, the Kingdom’s media ministry reported.

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“This conference will shed light on the security, traffic and organization plans for ensuring the safety and security of pilgrims while also facilitating the peaceful performance of their rituals,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Al-Rashed was met with a great deal of positivity on social media, from users in Saudi Arabia and throughout the region.

In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative, the defense ministry officially opened military recruitment to women in February this year, allowing them to enroll in the Saudi Arabian Land Forces, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.

Photos of a Saudi female police officer supervising Umrah pilgrims during the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca. (SPA)
Photos of a Saudi female police officer supervising Umrah pilgrims during the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia has decided to limit this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to 60,000 residents and nationals due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Interior set out the rules and regulations for the Hajj season in early July, outlining that as of July 5, anyone caught attempting to reach the Grand Mosque, the areas around it, and the holy sites, including Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, without a permit will be subject to a fine of nearly 10,000 riyals ($2,700).

The guidelines have been put in place to ensure compliance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the Hajj season this year which will take place between July 17 and 22, according to the interior ministry.

A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims while social distancing as a coronavirus preventative measure while circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims while social distancing as a coronavirus preventative measure while circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)

Last year, Saudi authorities only allowed a very limited number of people to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage. Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam and all able-bodied Muslims are required to complete it at least once in their lifetime.

Saudi’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Tuesday announced a new digital smart card system for Hajj pilgrims, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, which will carry medical history and enable the purchase of necessities during the Hajj season. The card also identifies gathering points, departure times for visits to the holy sites, and enables authorities to send notifications to holders.

People between the ages of 18-65 and who are fully vaccinated against the virus, received vaccine one dose at least 14 days prior, and those who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, are allowed to register for the pilgrimage.

The registration portal was launched on June 13.

“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah confirms that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia always prioritizes the safety, health and security of pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

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