Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Calls for female soldiers

An electronic campaign is urging the authorities to draft women into the army, Ahmed Morsy reports

Calls for female soldiers
Calls for female soldiers
Al-Ahram Weekly

A group on Facebook is calling for the recruitment of Egyptian women together with men. The “Egyptian Female Soldier” has managed to attract 19,517 members, but the idea behind stirred wider debates on social media platforms in recent weeks.

“Through the ages, Egyptian women played a crucial role side by side with men in various historical events,” Gehad Al-Koumi, the spokesperson of the Egyptian Female Soldier campaign, said. “We want to be recruited so that we can defend our homeland.”

As a result of the spread of the campaign, Al-Koumi said, in the last two months the organisers have met with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Minister of Youth Khaled Abdel-Aziz, Minister of Health Adel Al-Adawi and former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim to discuss it.

“Mehleb welcomed the idea,” Al-Koumi said. “He stated that the meeting was conducted on the instructions of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. Mehleb and the other ministers with whom we met asked us about the orientation and the idea of the campaign. After the meeting, we successfully managed to raise the number of signatories from 15,000 to over 19,000.”

Though the Armed Forces already has female cadres working in the fields of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and secretarial work, the campaign calls for robust ranks including combat missions.

“We should be deployed in combat duties and not only administrative jobs,” Al-Koumi explained, adding that Major Mohieddin Abdel-Alim, the director of recruitment at the Armed Forces, promised them he would study the idea.

“Abdel-Alim told us that the idea is a welcome one and that he would study how to implement it through amending the recruitment legislation.” This cannot happen until the new parliament is elected so that it can approve new laws.

Yet the Egyptian Armed Forces doctrine has never incorporated women in this role. The belief is that customs, traditions and religion preclude women from military life.

For its part the National Council for Women headed by Mervat Al-Tellawi responded to the campaign by demanding compulsory conscription for women. Hoda Badran, the head of the General Federation of Egyptian Women, however, believes that while the campaign is resonant the idea must be researched before it can be implemented since it presents many potential problems.

“Why are men better than women,” asked Safaa Selim, one of the supporters of the campaign. “The Egyptian woman is known to be better than 100 men.”

Shawki Al-Sayed, a constitutional expert, told Al-Wafd newspaper that the Constitution grants the equality of rights and duties, citing Article 40: “No discrimination between citizens on grounds of sex, origin, language, religion or creed...” But at the same time the text of the Constitution prohibits disrupting the Sharia, under Article 11: “The State shall ensure equality between women and men in all spheres of political, social, economic and cultural, without prejudice to the provisions of Islamic law”.

Hence, Al-Sayed said, the debate about the idea of recruiting women should not be determined by the religious scholars. “However, the fact that they themselves are in a dispute between supporters and opponents of the idea, the proposal’s predestination will be subjected to the customs and traditions of Arabs and Egyptians, which are still not commensurate with having women conscripts in combat missions.”

On the other hand, various media reports have stated that the Tamarod campaign’s co-founder Mahmoud Badr and his sister are among the organisers of the campaign, suggesting that they will be collecting signatures all across the country. Al-Koumi, however, denied these claims. “I met Badr once and he expressed his appreciation and support for our campaign. His sister is one of the signatories but neither of them have anything to do with the organising, coordination or even the collection of signatures.”

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