This is the latest sign that the Islamic militants are imposing their strict practices on the population.
Police in Hamas-ruled Gaza have begun picking up young men with long or gelled hair directly off the street and shaving their heads. The Associated Press reports that the young men are “hustled into Jeeps,” they are mocked, and even beaten, and then they are taken to the police station to have their heads forcibly shaved. Young men are also being targeted for wearing low-waisted or tight fitting pants. According to the AP,
Hamas has been slowly forcing its fundamentalist interpretation of the religion on already conservative Gaza since it overran the territory in 2007, but the new crackdown on long hair and tight or low-waist pants — in several cases accompanied by beatings — appears to be one of the most aggressive phases of the campaign so far.
Hamas officials played down the campaign — a stance adopted in the past that allows the group to distance itself from a controversial crackdown while at the same time instilling fear in those it targeted.
19-year-old Ayman al-Sayed, who had shoulder length hair before being picked up by police after work last Thursday said, “The only thing I want to do is leave this country. I am scared. They just take you from the street without reason. I don’t know what they are going to do next.” He told the AP,
[H]e was thrown into the jeep with more than 10 others already squeezed into the back of the vehicle. He said policemen cursed them on the way to the police station.
There, the detainees were lined up, and a policeman began shaving their heads. He shaved two lines, from front to back and from one ear to the other, telling the young men they could finish the job at a neighborhood barber shop.
Those who resisted were beaten.
For the youth of Gaza, such governmental “crackdowns” mean a “shrinking space of self-expression.” Some chose to follow the tide, for their own safety if nothing else. But for others, such as 18-year-old Mohammed Hanouna, the crackdown has “sparked defiance.” Hanouna started spiking his hair with gel after several of his friends were targeted by police. Sunday afternoon he went out with al-Sayed, and another friend, 17-year-old Tareq Naqib, who was also picked up last week in a separate incident, with his hair gelled into spikes. Hanouna told the AP that he is not afraid of being arrested. He said, “I have nothing to lose except my hair.”
Photo: AP/Adel Hana