Tunisia mulls women soldiers to face ‘new challenges’

Women are not technically excluded from joining the armed forces

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Tunisia’s defence minister said Thursday his country must examine the possibility of allowing women to serve in its armed forces to face down “new challenges” including militants attacks.

“Tunisia’s constitution says that national service is a right for all citizens... This duty applies to all citizens, male or female, so it’s now time to look into the issue,” Farhat Horchani told the private Mosaique FM radio station.

Women are not technically excluded from joining the armed forces but Tunisia’s one-year obligatory military service is in practice reserved for men.

Tunisia has been hit by dozens of militant attacks since its 2011 revolution, including assaults last year in Tunis and the beach resort of Sousse that killed 60 people, all but one of them foreigners.

The beheading of a teenage shepherd by militants as his sheep grazed on Mount Mghilla last November also horrified the country.

High youth unemployment and a struggling economy has led some Tunisia watchers to warn of the increased risk of radicalisation in the North African country.

“There are new challenges: terrorism, limited means,” Horchani said.

He said Tunisia needed an “adapted infrastructure... We have seen that young people don’t want to do their military service.”

President Beji Caid Essebsi said last week that Tunisia’s battle to fight “terrorism” had already cost its economy around $4 billion (3.6 billion euros).

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