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.