On October 2nd the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين), the al-Quds Brigades, took to the streets of Fatah in Southern Gaza to mark the 17th anniversary of the assassination of Fathi al-Shaqaqi. Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta by the Mossad in 1995. Each year, the al-Quds Brigades take to the streets for a military parade to mark the event, brandishing a variety of arms and carrying all manner of banners and flags. This year’s parade, however, was a little different, and held some interesting items for those of us following the spread of various small arms. Amongst the usual assortment of Russian AKMs & Eastern Bloc copies, Chinese Type 56 variants, PKMs, and RPG-7 variants and copies were two far less common weapons: the F2000 and AK-103 assault rifles.
Of the Defence issues raised over the past 12 months, none has been more controversial than the government’s decision to lift a ban on gender discrimination in the military which means women are eligible to serve in close combat units, including special forces.
In Australia, we value the principles equality and fairness and the right of the individual not to be discriminated on the basis of race, religion, age or gender. But there are specific challenges to applying a rights-based approach to the profession of the arms. This is because there are strong historical and cultural legacies surrounding ideas of the military, warfare and masculinity.
Historically, the military and warzones are not imagined and understood as a context for women as soldiers. Australian women appeared in support roles such as nurses, drivers, workers, mothers and later carers of returned soldiers. In this sense, gender reform is not just about enshrining the equal rights for women in the military but must, over time, break down traditional, cultural and historical understandings of warfare, the military and masculinity.
This is challenging because in the military, while the individual is important, the “group” (that is, the military) and survival of the nation and its interests are paramount. Continue reading →