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thedrifter
03-02-08, 02:28 PM
IRAQ: The sisters of Fallouja

One strategy for keeping the peace in the onetime insurgent stronghold of Fallouja involves channeling all traffic into the city through one of five checkpoints staffed by Marines and Iraqi police.

To search women enterring Fallouja, the Americans have used Arabic-speaking translators and female Marines. To keep with the policy of "transition," the U.S. wanted to shift the responsibility to the Iraqis and thus formed the Sisters of Fallouja in mid-December.

Twenty-two of the "sisters" work the checkpoints, searching the 8,000 to 9,000 women each day who flow into Fallouja. There was grumbling from the all-male Iraqi police force.

To avoid the controversy that beset women in Baghdad, the sisters opted not to join the police or request guns. For 15 10-hour shifts a month, a woman is paid about $500.

"I want Fallouja to be safer than any place in the world," said one sister, who plans to use her paycheck to repair her home, damaged in the fighting.

Although no would-be suicide bombers have been discovered, women have been found with large amounts of cash and electronic gear that could be used to make bombs, officials said.

"The [Iraqi police] don't like us doing this job," said another sister, who hopes to buy a home. "They tell us: 'Don't tell the Marines if you find something.' We tell them anyway."

The Marines are close by.

"The sisters are motivated," said Staff Sgt. Carlos Latorre. "They're good to go."

— Tony Perry in Fallouja

Ellie