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Hamas Rounding Up, Beating Men with “Immodest” Hair, Enforcing Islamic Dress

Hamas is beating, arresting, and forcibly cutting the hair of men who have “immodest” haircuts, part of a campaign to enforce Islamic styles in the Gaza Strip:

The human rights group says the men were beaten and forced to sign an agreement to keep their hair short. They are also being forced to agree that they will not wear low-waisted trousers, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says. If Hamas does want to crack down on hair gel and low-slung jeans it will have its work cut out. Both styles are fashionable with young men in Gaza, where more than half the population is under the age of 18.

Palestinian human rights groups condemned the tactics and even Hamas officials were subsequently forced to rhetorically distance themselves  from the unpopular campaign:

House painter Ayman al-Sayed, 19, had shoulder-length hair before police grabbed him and shaved his head Thursday. “The only thing I want to do is leave this country,” said al-Sayed, who despite his ordeal defiantly wore stylish but outlawed narrow-leg tan khakis Sunday. “I am scared. They just take you from the street without reason. I don’t know what they are going to do next.”

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

Photos of some of the clothing being targeted by Hamas can be viewed here. Hamas’s crackdown comes at a time when the group is under increasing scrutiny for a series of moves that human rights groups have criticized for eroding civil liberties. Recent months have seen the organization introduce gender segregation for children as young as nine and ban women from running in a mixed-gender marathon.