(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Major Suzanne El-Hajj is one tough woman.
El-Hajj is a pioneering Lebanese security officer and the first female police officer in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF), the national police and security force of Lebanon.
A graduate of Balamand University, El-Hajj was born in the Koura District of Lebanon. She majored in communications engineering and earned a master’s degree in computer science, making her equipped for combating cyber crime.
In 2001, her father spotted a recruitment notice for a communications position in Internal Security Forces, which did not specify a gender requirement. He encouraged her to apply.
“Until recently, workplace inequality existed in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF), the country’s national police and security force,” El-Hajj said. “Very few women worked within the ISF: out of 25,000 members, only two were female. I was one of them.”
The second woman, Captain Dyala Mohtar, joined the ISF as a lieutenant in the computing section in 2003.
El-Hajj is known as one of the ISF’s toughest officers, fighting for cyber safety and minority rights, especially among women.
“When people see and accept a woman as mayor and understand that she was truly elected, the scope for seeing more women in Parliament will no longer be a far-fetched idea,” she once suggested.
During her tenure at the ISF communications bureau, Hajj created the ‘Rights, Equality and Diversity Bureau’ to ensure that minority workers, particularly women, were addressed and facilitated.
In 2009, El-Hajj helped coordinate a Civilian Police Training Program Partnership between the United States and Lebanon, where she worked with ISF officials to expand the ranks to include Lebanese women.
In 2012, 610 Lebanese women were accepted by ISF.
El-Hajj recently created a new unit called RED (Rights, Equality, Diversity) Police, with an objective to mainstream diversity within the police in all regions of Lebanon.
“The ISF is recognized as the first institution in the Middle East and North Africa region that enforces gender equity and democracy, and of this, I’m very proud,” she said.
In October 2012, El-Hajj was appointed as the head of the Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Bureau in Lebanon, becoming the first woman in this position in Lebanon and the Middle East.
“There are female sergeants in this bureau who have been assigned to the same missions as the male sergeants, and they are doing very well,” she said.
WATCH an English interview with Suzanne El-Hajj: