June 11th, 2006 04:55 EST
Women Join Iraqi Police by Petty Officer 2nd Class John J. Pistone
IRBIL , Iraq — Women's rights might not be the first thing one thinks of when someone mentions Iraq , however, some officials in the Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq would like it to be.
According to Irbil Minister of Interior Karim Sinjari, equality is very important for the residents of the Kurdish provinces.
“We are working very hard to be progressive and set the standard for human rights in Iraq ,” he said.
According to Sinjari, changing the country's view of women is an important step to separate themselves from the old way of thinking.
Although women throughout Iraq have been given the right to vote and are accepted in the army and police academies, the city of Irbil was the first city to allow women to hold positions of power.
Iraqi Police Lt. Narseed, is one of the first female officers in the city.
She wanted to be a police officer at a very young age but thought that the career field would not be open within her lifetime. That all changed when the Coalition removed Saddam from power. She said she had already graduated college and was becoming a lawyer when she made the decision to become a police officer. “When I heard that the doors had opened for women to become officers, I jumped at the chance and then went to the police academy.”
She said that she has no issue with men following orders or accepting her as an authoritative figure. “Here, there is no difference between male officers and female officers. If I tell the men to do something, they do it. There is no hesitation on their part.”
She said that her years of law school have helped her tremendously.
“Being a lawyer has helped me with the investigative side of police work. I know what a judge or an attorney is going to be looking for. This gives me a slight edge over some of the others on the force,” Narseed said.
Iraqi Police Lt. Col. Aswar, the Khabat station commander, said he is happy to have Narseed on the force.
“We find that she is much better at interrogation than most of her male counterparts, especially when it comes to interrogating women. She quickly identifies the hot buttons and knows how to get the right information,” Aswar said.
According to Aswar, when Saddam was in power, he tried to brainwash the females in the country into believing that they could not do the same things as men, but his beliefs were never really accepted in the Kurdish provinces.
“We knew that like so many successful and stable nations around the world, our views on women had to change,” he said.
“We consider ourselves more modern and progressive compared to a lot of other cities in the Middle East.”
Another woman setting the bar higher is Iraqi police officer 2nd Lt. Lana Abdulwahad at the Traffic Police Academy in Irbil.
In addition to her duties as a traffic officer, Abdulwahad is an instructor at the academy and helps translate Kurdish and English for her students and other instructors. Like Narseed, she has a four-year college degree and a degree from the Irbil Police Academy .
“We are equals, so we must work together,” she said. “No longer are there barriers for women.”
She said there is equal opportunity for women for promotions. According to Abdulwahad, a woman or man can be promoted in four years of duty if he or she passes an exam for promotion.
“Now they encourage woman to take a stand and work.”
Both Narseed and Abdulwahad agree that the opportunities they enjoy are because of the Kurdish provincial commitment to growth and the level of security found in Irbil . They also agree that they are important role models for Iraqi girls.
Narseed said the girls of Iraq need to see more strong women come to the forefront. They need to know that they are only limited by their imagination.
“We are professional; we deserve to be recognized for what we can contribute and not for our gender,” said Narseed.
“Support those of us who want to walk a different path. We are all Iraqis - Sunni, Shiite, Kurd- male and female. We need to come together instead of pulling apart.”