Friday, January 18, 2008

Run, Fatma, Run

The policemen of Hamas now have company: since the Islamic group took over here last June it has been recruiting policewomen as well.

Since mid-August, 60 women have been accepted into the force...

...But in Gaza, female empowerment and Hamas-style religious orthodoxy are not always an easy mix. Many religious women refuse to do police work because it involves working closely with men and working nights.

There are other uncertainties. For example, Rania, 26, the leader of the women’s force, refused to give her full name during an interview. She felt that her future in the police was not yet assured, and that she might one day need to go back to her former career as a religious instructor in the mosques. If so, her interlude as a policewoman might spoil her relations with her students, she said.

Like most of her female colleagues, Rania wears the niqab, a full veil that leaves only a slit for the eyes. A sign of modesty, it affords her a degree of anonymity as well.

One recruit, Fatma, 27, wears only a head scarf, which leaves her face exposed. But she complained that it was hard to run in her long Islamic robe, known as a jilbab. She said that her bosses were thinking of designing a new uniform for easier movement. “They are talking about pants, and a jilbab that is open on both sides,” she said.


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