Sunday, September 14, 2008

Iraq's Female Police Officers

The female members of Iraq's police force are continuing their training in the role to assist in the enforcement of the law within Iraq.

From the Star Tribune:
"The 30-year-old recruit and the 20 other women training at the academy are a critical part of the U.S. and Iraqi response to the latest deadly tactic of al-Qaida in Iraq: female suicide bombers.

But the academy — the only one of its kind in Iraq — is taking that response one step further. For one month, the women stay and train at the academy in the volatile Diyala province with 680 male colleagues.

Unlike many other security programs for women, where they come only during the day and where classes are confined mostly to search methods, this academy offers women the same lessons as men — including weapons training.

Women have been serving as auxiliary members of Iraqi security forces in markets and during pilgrimages, but these recruits will be full-time policewomen once they graduate next week. They also will receive an official police certification from the Ministry of Interior."

And from Yahoo News:
"She was wearing something rarely seen on an Iraqi woman — a police uniform of blue shirts and black pants.

There is still some resistance to women police officers in Diyala, one of the most violent pockets in Iraq. Some men believe the job is too dangerous. Others object to women leaving their families for a month to live at the academy.

Diyala police Maj. Raied Khalaf dismissed the idea of women officers: a "nightingale" who will be "a soft and easy target for abduction and murder."

But as the frequency of female suicide bombers increases, the need to include women in the police forces is overruling the opposition. Iraqi men are reluctant to search women and risk breaking social taboos, and al-Qaida exploits this by having them conceal explosives in long, flowing robes.

The number of attacks by female bombers in Iraq has tripled from eight in 2007 to more than two dozen so far this year, according to U.S. military officials.

Diyala has been particularly vulnerable. Women have carried out 12 suicide attacks this year in the strategic and ethnically diverse province northeast of Baghdad that was a former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold.

Iraqi and American officials hope the women training at the academy can start closing that gap.

During their month at the academy, the women learn how to tame riots, take apart guns, set up checkpoints and search for weapons. When not in the field, they get courses in first aid and policing ethics.

The recruits — a mix of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds — are told to place sectarian perspectives and politics aside and put their country first. The women recruits say it will be up to their individual stations on whether they can carry weapons, but many hope they can.

Some are widows whose husbands were killed by militants. Others have disabled husbands and relatives who can't work after being wounded in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. All need steady paychecks to support their children.

About 25 more women are set to attend the academy's next session before the U.S. military turns the center over to Iraqi control in November."

It is encouraging to see women taking a more active role in their nation's future.

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