Female Fighter Pilot Battles U.S. Military's Double-Standard in Saudi Arabia
Keller, Michele, National NOW Times
The first woman in United States military history to fly a fighter jet in combat sued the U.S. Department of Defense in December over a policy that requires U.S. servicewomenbut not men-to wear Muslim dress and adhere to local customs while traveling off-base in Saudi Arabia.
In mid-January, Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, issued an order saying that Muslim dress is "strongly encouraged" though no longer required for U.S. servicewomen. The order, however, leaves the final decision to local U.S. military commanders, many of whom continue to instruct servicewomen to wear a head scarf and fulllength gown, or abaya, when away from the base.
In her suit, filed in Washington, D.C., federal district court, Lt. Colonel Martha McSally said the regulations required her to send the message that she believes women are subservient to men. Under the policy, female military personnel who leave Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia must be escorted by men at all times, and are not allowed to drive or ride in the front seat of a car.
U.S. Central Command has not changed those aspects of the policy, and McSally plans to continue her lawsuit because the new order doesn't go far enough.
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Defense department officials reportedly constructed the policy to avoid offending conservative Saudi leaders and to protect U.S. troops from the harassment of local religious police.
But activists point to the fact that the U.S. State Department does not require female employees in Saudi Arabia to wear Muslim dress. The Saudi government has not offcially advised non-Muslim Westerners of either sex to wear Muslim clothing, only to dress conservatively.
"If female diplomats can wear what they want, why can't the U. …