Iraqi policewomen told to hand over their weapons

Apparently, the prospect of armed Iraqi women participating in national security is too much for their male egos…..

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government has ordered all policewomen to hand in their guns for redistribution to men or face having their pay withheld, thwarting a U.S. initiative to bring women into the nation’s police force.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, issued the order late last month, according to ministry documents, U.S. officials and several of the women. It affects all officers who have earned the title “policewoman” by graduating from the police academy. It does not apply to men in the same type of jobs.

Critics say the move is the latest sign of the religious and cultural conservatism that has taken hold in Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s ouster ushered in a government dominated by Shiite Muslims. Now, that tendency is hampering efforts to bring stability to Iraq by driving women from the force, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who has led the effort to recruit female officers.

“We nursed it along,” he said last week, referring to the recruiting effort. “We saw this as: ‘If we could get 50% of the brain power in this country that is not being utilized engaged, how much further along would we be?’ ”

Without policewomen, Phillips said, there will be no officers to give pat-down searches to female suspects, even though women have joined the ranks of suicide bombers in Iraq. Last week, a female bomber killed at least 16 people north of Baghdad, at least the fifth such attack in Iraq this year.

……The U.S. attempt to recruit female police officers faced hurdles from the start. Phillips said that although hundreds of women have gone through the police academy and performed as well as, if not better than, men, few have been given assignments outside the office.

……Despite the ministry order, the women said they would not hand in their weapons. If their pay is withheld at the end of the month, they plan to stage a protest.

They added that they were counting on U.S. authorities to back them up and force the ministry to back off.

Phillips, though, said U.S. officials have limited options.

“It’s a sovereign nation. We turned over the running of their own police force to them,” he said. “We don’t have a veto.”

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-policewomen11dec11,0,6289588,full.story?coll=la-home-center

Good for those women. I hope they raise hell and win. General Phillips needs to grab the Ministry by the short and curlies and point out that these women are a vital part of the security and future of Iraq. You can’t take a step forward, negate it with take two steps back, and expect to make any progress.

This is indicative of how far Iraq still has to go.

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