Featured News
Photo Information

A Female Iraqi searcher uses a metal detecting wand on a local citizen at an entry control point June 12. In the wake of a sharp increase in female suicide attacks throughout Iraq, the responsibilities of a female searcher have become more important than ever. The Iraqi female searchers at check points in Ramadi, and all of al Anbar Province, are continuing to thoroughly search local women, constantly checking for weapons. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

The silent guardians of Ramadi

15 Jul 2008 | Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

RAMADI, Iraq (July 15, 2008) – Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom, insurgents have continuously adapted their tactics in efforts to destabilize the country’s developing infrastructure and inflict harm on individuals supporting the nation’s growth.

The most recent and growing trend has been insurgents’ use of women to attack Iraqi and Coalition forces, particularly the use of female suicide bombers.

To counter those attacks, Coalition forces are employing the services of local women searchers who have turned against terrorism and are disgusted with the violence in their region.

“At this moment, a female in Iraq is more dangerous than a male,” said an Iraqi female through an interpreter. “A lot of the recent attacks have been carried out by women who were not searched. Our job is all too important right now.”

Terrorists’ use of female suicide bombers is not a new concept in Iraq or elsewhere, but has been fairly uncommon until eight female suicide bombing attacks occurred in 2007. In the first six months of 2008, over 20 of the attacks were reported by the U.S. Military.

Coalition forces have heightened their awareness to the attacks, but in accordance with Islamic culture it is only appropriate for a woman to search another woman while in public.

“In their society, the males do not have a lot of public interaction with the females,” said 1st Sgt. William Heyob, the Company B first sergeant with 2nd Amphibious Assault Vehicle Company attached to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1. “We have female searchers because there’s always a threat of a female trying to enter the city with a bomb vest on.”

The female searchers, aware of their job’s importance, refuse to allow terrorists to enter Ramadi and loosen their city’s tight grip on peace.

“We search the women to try and keep Ramadi safe,” the female searcher said. “Our job is to help the Iraqi Police, the Marines, and the citizens of Ramadi stay secure.”

According to the Iraqi woman, the vast majority of women in Ramadi have given up aiding the insurgency. Those who would often carry weapons underneath their abayas, the full-body length, dark robes worn in accordance with Islamic traditions, are now fed up with the violence and view their past actions as a mistake.

Heyob, whose company is assigned to entry control points in the city, said the female searchers are doing a remarkable job defending their city.

“We have a core of female searchers that work hard for us every day,” said the 39-year-old from Hamilton, Ohio. “We really depend on them and they’re doing a great service for their country.”

The Iraqi Police and Marines routinely hold classes to ensure the searchers are aware of new threats associated with their job.

“The Marines and Iraqi Police at the entry control points talk to the searchers and give classes on how to properly search a person,” Heyob said. “They also make sure they’re always doing the right thing.”

The classes have been effective, as the women have followed the procedures and have reported several suspicious individuals to Coalition forces.

“On about three occasions, we’ve had situations where a male civilian dressed like a female trying to get by a checkpoint because they knew the security, in the past, didn’t focus on the females as much,” Heyob said. “Every time the searchers noticed, they informed us. Without the female searchers, we probably would’ve never known.”

The women of Ramadi, the city’s silent guardians, are doing their best in keeping the violence of yesterday in the past, while looking to the promising possibilities that tomorrow holds in store.

“Some of my family and friends were killed by the terrorists,” said the female searcher. “I chose this job to honor those killed, to serve my people, my country, and to keep us protected.”