Algerian policewomen take their skills up a notch

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At a police training academy in the capital Algiers, Algerian policewomen are brushing up their skills in a profession which remains in the hands of a male-dominated Muslim society.

Even in relatively liberal Algeria, some people believe the police force is not a suitable profession for a Muslim woman, not to mention that whatever the gender, it can be a dangerous job.

But these policewomen say they find joy in the challenge.

“I love challenges and I wanted to prove that women can also do this job just like men,” said 34-year-old policewoman Malik Ahlem.

“We don't fear anything, because we have made this job our own choice in life,” said another policewoman Hank Houda.

It was pride, not fear that was on display as around 20 policewomen showed off their skills that included firing sub-machine guns.

Armed with their skills, many of these policewomen could end up teaching male trainees.
“After getting the experience and training policewomen will be able to train others in the future, they will be a trainer in this specialty and can also train men, this is the aim, why not,” asked police commissioner Ghezal Nacereddine.

In many parts of the Arab world, where conservative attitudes to the role of women in society are widespread, scenes like this would be unthinkable.

But Algeria, a former French colony in North Africa where almost all the 35 million population are Muslim, takes pride in the fact that equality for women is enshrined in its laws.

“It is a risky job, but as an Algerian woman, I am able to be in this risky field, which was only known for men in the past, but women have to have a role in all fields, so we are trying to support men in this profession,” said policewoman Boukabal Rym.

Officials say that women's involvement in the police force is a legacy of its struggle for independence, when women guerrillas fought alongside men against French troops, and when ideas about equality were shared with other left-wing liberation movements in Cuba and elsewhere.

The policewomen began their 12-month training in September 2012.
During that period, their training sessions will range from standard police training to special fighting techniques such as bomb squad, weapons raining and bodyguard fighting.

“We don't have any distinction between men and women in this job, they take the same exercises and the same training, the woman has to be capable of doing the same training as men in order to accomplish her mission in the right way, and thank God, we have never faced in issue with that, you have noticed that the level they reached is remarkable and we can rely on them in the field without any problem and without any doubt,” said Samy Boudouaour, a police Lieutenant and Chief Instructor for Police Bodyguard.

Equality of the sexes is enshrined in Algeria's constitution and women hold senior positions in central and regional government, the courts, security services and embassies. There are around 188,000 police forces in Algeria and 15,468 of them are women.

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