Gaza Hairstyle Crackdown Sees Heads Shaved

Gaza Hairstyle Crackdown Sees Heads Shaved

Police in the Gaza Strip have been grabbing young men off the streets and shaving their heads in a crackdown on hairstyles, according to a human rights group.

The Palestinian Center For Human Rights said a number of men had been beaten and detained by police who stated that their hairstyles were "indecent".

House painter Ayman al Sayed said his shoulder-length hair was shaved off by police on Thursday.

He said he had just finished work in Gaza City and was waiting for a shared taxi when a police jeep approached.

The 19-year-old said he was thrown into the back with more than 10 others while police officers shouted and swore at them.

When they arrived at a police station, the detainees were lined up and an officer 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 neighbourhood barber shop.

Those who resisted were beaten, Mr al Sayed said.

"The only thing I want to do is leave this country," he added. "I am scared. They just take you from the street without reason. I don't know what they are going to do next."

High school student Tareq Naqib said he was taken by police outside his home.

"They said, 'we want you to respect our tradition,'" the 17-year-old said. "They made a cross on our heads and asked us to leave and finish the shaving at a barber shop."

Another Gaza teen, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said he saw police beat three young men in Gaza City for wearing tight, low-rise trousers.

The witness said the policemen used clubs to beat the three on the backs of their knees and told passers-by watching the scene to move along.

The human rights group called for the "attacks, cases of arbitrary detention, and violation of civil rights of citizens" to be investigated by the authorities in the Palestinian Territory.

However, officials from the Hamas-led government played down the concerns.

Ziad al Zaza, the deputy prime minister of Gaza, said the head-shaving "was a very limited, isolated behaviour of the police and is not going to continue".

Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip six years ago and has overseen the imposition of more conservative practices in the territory, including legislation mandating separate classrooms for girls and boys.

The group is under pressure from the more fundamental Salafi movement, which has gained popularity in recent years and criticised Hamas for not implementing a strict interpretation of Islamic law quickly enough.