Policewomen in service of Gazans against all odds
They may be the ones who have taken on the hardest job in a city under fire: Female police officers in the Palestinian city of Gaza, which was assaulted for eight long days by Israeli forces, are trying not just to survive but also to serve the other residents of the city.

The facilities serving police officers in Gaza were one of the places targeted by the Israelis. Among many public buildings demolished or seriously damaged as a result of the Israeli attack, 16 belong to the city's police force.

As we enter one of the few surviving police stations in Gaza, we are struck with how busy the place is. There are heightened security measures at the entrance, and inside the building officers are trying hard to get an office for themselves. From the garden, we hear the voices of officers shouting words in Arabic, in a training session.

A group of female officers is being trained amid fallen bricks since they do not have a classroom. We are welcomed by Col. Nermin Adven, who supervises all the female officers of the Gaza Strip.

There are only a few; in all of the Gaza Strip there are only 200 female police officers. They do not just work in traffic and provide security at building entrances; they work everywhere, just like their male colleagues.

Policewomen knock on the doors at the scene of an operation, and they are the first to enter. Palestinians give maximum attention to the privacy of families and the police work in accordance with Islamic values.

All female officers in the city wear headscarves. One might think headscarves would be difficult to work with in a job that requires a lot of physical activity, but they have special flexible headscarves.

Col. Adven emphasizes the fact that the policewomen are no different than policemen in the Gaza Strip. She tells us about an operation carried out at the home of a suspected thief. A female officer led the way, as usual, and opened the door first. The thief caught the officer by the neck and attempted to hold her captive, but before the man knew what was going on she had made a counter-attack and handcuffed him.

Entering the scene first poses a danger, but Gaza women are already familiar with the feeling, facing daily threats to their survival in a conflict-stricken land. They are the ones who shed tears for their dead husbands, fathers and brothers and they are the ones who bury them. They try to hold on to life in a war that does not seem to be ending any time soon.

When asked about the increasing domestic violence incidents in Turkey, Adven responds wittily. She says it would be a too big a burden to suffer from Palestinian men too while Palestinian women are already suffering from Israeli violence.

She acknowledges that Gaza society is closed and that such incidents of domestic violence would not be reported to the police if they occur. There is a special unit of experts for such cases; if an incident of violence against a woman is reported, the experts talk to the man and try to convince him not to do it again. But if the violence does not cease, then the couple goes to court.

Adven established a women's shelter with her own means in Gaza for women who are subjected to violence at the hands of men. Currently the shelter houses 20 women. Death at the hands of a woman's abuser is rare in Gaza, Adven says typically only one such murder is seen in 10 years.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-30 18:00:02
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