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Sgt. Nathaniel C. LeBlanc, 1st Marine Division
FALLUJAH, Iraq (March 2, 2008) -- It has become desperate times for the insurgents in the al Anbar province. Backed up against the ropes and badly beaten, they are trying to resort to any dirty trick that they can come up with… even if it means sneaking bomb-making material with women and children past the Coalition and Iraqi forces’ security.
These tactics have proven to be futile thanks to the brave women known as the Sisters of Fallujah who selflessly help protect their city and stop any insurgents’ attempt to harm their community.
The Sisters of Fallujah, a program which started Dec. 15, has local women working along-side Marines and Iraqi Police at each Entry Control Point, which allows inbound traffic and people into the city. They are at the forefront of their community’s defense where every woman, child and their belongings are searched by them. They look for any suspicious items that could possibly be bomb-making material or pose a threat such as copper wires, washer machine timers, electronic devices or even large sums of money.
In the past, Marines and Iraqi Police could not search the women due to the cultural barrier where men are prohibited to touch women. The women were even able to stay in their vehicles while the men were searched. This created a gap in the city’s security. But with the Sisters of Fallujah stepping up and doing their part for the community, they have overcome such barriers.
“We all want to help our city,” said 43 year-old “Sarah” a Sister of Fallujah, who uses a pseudonym to protect her name and family. “We are doing this job because we want to help our country, our people, our husbands, and to make Fallujah a safer city in the world.”
“Sarah” like many other Sisters of Fallujah is a resident of Fallujah and a working mother. She works every week; two days on, two days off, with a salary of $500 a month. She has seven children and hopes to one day build a new home for her family.
“My husband likes that I’m working here,” she said. “He knows that I’m helping my people and my country.”
These women’s sense of family and community, and wanting to keep them safe has made an impact in bringing peace to the region. They have shown that their contribution is invaluable.
“The Sisters of Fallujah are very essential to our efforts,” said Capt. Waleed Naji Mohammad, Iraqi Police ECP chief. “Before, no one could search the woman. Now with the Sisters of Fallujah, we are able to prevent insurgents from smuggling anything harmful with the women and children. They are doing a good job at keeping the city safe.”
Marines, who have deployed to the area in past years, know all to well the frustration of being unable to search women at the ECPs, but have now seen the changes that the Sisters of Fallujah have made.
Lance Cpl. Arthur Austin, an Eagle Grove, Iowa native, who had deployed to the al Anbar province in 2006, and is currently back as the ECP 1’s corporal of the guard with weapons platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment said, “There was an uneasiness of being unable to search the women. We weren’t able to provide that complete security. Having the Sisters of Fallujah around, it has improved quite a bit. It’s nice to see that they want to make a difference.”
The Sisters of Fallujah’s program has proven to be successful and has shown that even Iraqi women have a place in the fight against insurgency and henceforth there will always be a sentry standing her post, from the time the gates open and until they close, who is proud of her country and her people.