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Women back on Iranian police beat

Tehran, Oct. 4 (Reuters): Iranian policewomen are back on the beat for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution after graduating from police training college today.

Two hundred and fifteen graduates, wearing the all-enveloping black chador garment and carrying either ceremonial swords or firearms, trooped in front of President Mohammad Khatami before taking up their duties tomorrow.

Iranian women served as police officers under the pro-Western Shah who was toppled in the revolution, but since then their role has been restricted to administrative tasks and conducting body searches on women suspects.

However press reports say the graduates have polished their judo and fencing skills and will be able to serve alongside men in police stations and border posts.

The newspapers also say they will have a role to play in crime scene investigation.

Earlier this year the official Irna news agency quoted Ali Abdullahi, deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s police, as saying a special uniform had been designed for the policewomen.

He did not give more details, but in January a police training official said they would wear a loose coat and trousers whilst out on patrol.

The official said they would not be required to wear the chador, the all-enveloping black garment that literally means “tent”, which is obligatory in some government offices.

Iran has slightly eased restrictions on women since the election of pro-reform President Khatami in 1997 and most professions are open to women, but Iran’s strict Islamic dress code remains in place.

Under the code, women are expected to wear headscarves and loose-fitting clothes that disguise the shape of their body.

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