Women police in Hamas-controlled Gaza / PHOTO

Susan Aqal is a Palestinian mother who has a baby boy. But she has abandoned traditional domestic life to interrogate suspected drug addicts, thieves and murderers in the volatile Gaza Strip.

Women police in Hamas-controlled Gaza / PHOTO

Susan Aqal is a Palestinian mother who has a baby boy. But she has abandoned traditional domestic life to interrogate suspected drug addicts, thieves and murderers in the volatile Gaza Strip.

A university graduate who worked as a lawyer for various organisations, she leapt at the chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer after the Hamas seized the territory in June.


"This is my field. This is what I studied. I wanted a job in security and used to work in other organisations, but when I got the chance I didn't hesitate to join the police force," says the 28-year-old wife of a Hamas officer.

Aqal is one of 50 women working with Hamas in Gaza City.

While most are secretaries, she is one of 10 policewomen based at the Saraya prison in a force set up by Hamas last month.


"I know that this job needs a strong personality and someone who is courageous. I'm not scared. I just feel that the guilty need to be punished," she says, reeling off a list of crimes she interrogates suspects for -- murder, drugs, theft and moral vice.

"We're treated very well within our brotherhood. I work here in the compound and deal with criminals directly. I interrogate men as well as women. At the moment I'm assisting our officers because we haven't finished our training yet," she says.



Amin Nawfal, a commander in the Executive Force that supervises the women -- says they will eventually be given firearms training, take part in arrest operations and be fully integrated.

"Females can't be touched by a man, therefore we need women police. That's proof we are a lawful country. It doesn't violate Sharia law either," Nawfal says.

Women work as police across the Muslim world, including in Iran, where women are taught how to use guns, rappel down buildings, chase cars and disable bombs.

"Having women in security jobs shows how democratic we are and that we have equality between men and women," says Nawfal, dressed in military fatigues and sitting at an enormous desk, Hamas television flickering in the background.

"My mother looks after my baby and my husband is a lawyer and in the force, so he is totally supportive," Aqal says.

"All the women in my family are working, so they encourage me. This is no problem in our community and we don't face any discrimination," she adds.



At the moment, she earns 300 dollars (216 euros) a month working from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm six days a week, but after a six-month trial period she expects to nearly double her salary.

She proudly shows off her large office -- standard issue for women recruits -- complete with a desk, computer and mobile phone. Her only complaint is the lack of uniform.

"The women's force is asking for a uniform to differentiate them from the other women working in administration. I'm wearing what I normally wear at the moment but we would like it to be dark blue or black, patterned the same as the men's."

The Executive Force wears blue and grey camouflage.

"In time there will be a women's uniform in keeping with Islamic sharia, so it won't be a shirt or a T-shirt. It'll be the same as she's wearing," says Nawfal.

"We hope it will be the same colour and look as the men's uniform."


AFP

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2007, 16:15
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