Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from August 19 to August 25, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter and Dara Jackson-Garrett.
Two women make history, graduate from Army Ranger School
Last Friday, 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest made history by graduating from Army Ranger School. They are the first women to earn the coveted Ranger tab, worn by three percent of the Army. Only 77,000 total soldiers have earned the tab since Ranger School opened in 1952. As Haver noted, “if females continue to come to this course, they can be encouraged by what we have accomplished, but hopefully they’re encouraged by the legacy that the Ranger community has left." Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes that Haver and Griest’s success in Ranger School has shifted the conversation on women in combat: “It seems that ‘let them meet the standard,’ rather than ‘can they meet the standard?’ has become the new phrase.” The journey for women in Ranger School, and in combat more broadly, will reach an apex on January 1, 2016, when the military is required to open all positions to women, or provide justification for why they will be barred from certain posts.
The gradual expansion of rights for Saudi Arabian women
Last week, women in Saudi Arabia registered to vote for the first time in the country’s history. These women will be allowed to vote and run as candidates in upcoming municipal elections scheduled to take place on December 12. This recent news reflects a gradual expansion of rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Between 2010 and 2014, the total number of women employed in the country increased by 48 percent. Women can now work for diplomatic services, hold jobs as newspaper editors, and host television chat-shows, and women increasingly have started businesses online. Despite this progress, Saudi women still face many restrictions, including a requirement to have a male guardian with them in public, a prohibition on driving, and a requirement to obtain permission from a male guardian to travel, open a bank account, or receive medical treatment. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index ranked Saudi Arabia 130 out 142 countries in 2014.
Understanding the lure of the Islamic State
From the failed attempt of a young Mississippi couple to join the Islamic State to the shocking departure of three young British girls to Syria in February, the Islamic State’s recruitment efforts have garnered attention for their success in engaging women. U.S. and European officials have long been puzzled by the Islamic State’s attraction to women, who have traveled to Syria with unexpected frequency even though the group employs sex slavery as a tool of its extremist ideology. Though the Islamic State shows unparalleled brutality toward women it views as non-believers, the group also sees Muslim women as pivotal to retaining fighters and building the caliphate. A manifesto translated earlier this year on the role of women “extols the virtues of motherhood and promulgates the idea that the best place for a woman is in the house, living a life of ‘sedentariness’ and fulfilling her ‘divine duty of motherhood.’” In light of this trend, some experts have called for a focus on women in efforts to counter violent extremism.