UAE's all-women Swat teams aim for top honours

Eight fighters and snipers are ready for competition's fierce demands

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The all-women Swat teams from Abu Dhabi and Dubai Police have set their sights on emerging as champions at this year’s UAE Swat Challenge.

The Abu Dhabi Police women's team – making their debut in the competition – is on a mission that extends far beyond participation.

Lobna Elhalawani, fitness trainer for the force's elite F7 Directorate, has helped to prepare the eight female fighters and snipers to meet the competition's rigorous demands.

“The decision to form the all-women team was made last year with the goal to excel on both local and global stages,” Ms Elhalawani, who has been with Abu Dhabi Police for six years, told The National.

Our sights are set on clinching first place, a goal I believe is within our reach
Mahra Jasem, who serves in Abu Dhabi Police's F7 directorate

The team members take part in a wide range of operations, from raids to ensuring safety and security.

And, despite having only three months of extensive training before the competition, Ms Elhalawani is confident.

“They have performed very well, and I believe that a year from now, the team will rank among the top 10 globally.”

Tough training regime

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition

Nahid Al Naqbi, 34, has served with Abu Dhabi Police for nine years, taking on the additional role as a sniper in the past two years.

“Joining the police was my childhood dream. I've always been committed to self-improvement and mastering new skills,” she said.

She enrolled in a series of tough courses, ranging from special missions to tactical combat and advanced sniper training.

“Training under the intense heat with equipment weighing over eight kilograms, was exhausting but every step of the journey was worth it,” Ms Al Naqbi added.

“Breaking through the barriers as a woman in this field is tough, but my family’s support has been my strength.”

'Attitudes have changed'

Mahra Jasem, 29, serves in the F7 directorate, having transitioned from security support duties in 2017.

“Our decision to participate [in the Swat Challenge] was driven by a belief in our qualifications and readiness,” she said.

“Seeing other women's teams competing, aside from ours and Dubai Police, boosted our confidence.

“Our sights are set on clinching first place, a goal I believe is within our reach.”

She also encouraged more Emirati women to join the police, saying attitudes have changed.

“The once prevalent doubt towards women in the police force has diminished, making way for a new era of inclusivity,” Ms Jasem said.

“Remember, there's no challenge too great. Our intelligence, determination, and competitive spirit are our greatest assets.”

Aisha Juma, 32, has devoted a decade to Abu Dhabi Police, starting at the Sweihan Police School and progressing through roles including security support and participating in raids, before joining the F7 directorate.

With a family background deeply rooted in the military, Ms Juma was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“Working with the police is in my blood,” she said.

Leading the Dubai women's team this year is 2nd Lt Afra Hareb Al Nuaimi, 27.

She told The National: “My childhood dream was realised through the encouragement of my family and the empowerment provided by Dubai Police.

“Leading the team is not just a role but a responsibility.

“Last year’s participation taught us the value of self-challenge, pushing us to aim even higher this year.”

“Our presence and performance last year have sparked a broader inspiration, encouraging more women's teams to step into the arena,” she said.

“Seeing other women's teams join the challenge fills me with pride and joy, showcasing the impact and incentive we've created for global participation.”

Standing out

Drawing an equal amount of attention as the competitors themselves, Dubai Police’s Lt Maitha Mohammed Saif stands as the challenge's sole female referee.

“I have been in this position for the past four years which is a testament to my expertise, resilience, and the advancements of women in the UAE,” she said.

Lt Saif, 42, discovered an early passion for police work and a keen interest in shooting which eventually landed her the role of referee.

“I have always had a passion for shooting, this field that demands not only physical skill but also a sharp analytical mind.”

As a child, Lt Saif noticed other children found entertainment in pursuing a range of hobbies, whereas she was only interested in one thing.

“While my schoolmates were engaged in a variety of activities at scout camps, I always joined activities involving weapons and shooting,” she said.

In 2001, straight after high school, she joined Dubai Police.

“After few years of working with the force I pursued my education at the Dubai Police Academy, and earned a bachelor’s degree in law.”

She now leads the personal protection team in the General Department of Protective Security and Emergency at Dubai Police and has been a member of the UAE shooting team in 2006.

Four years ago she decided to train as a referee before becoming the only woman on a team of 24 UAE SWAT male referees.

Lt Saif described her teammates as “very supportive” and said their insights have “greatly enriched” her experience as a referee.

In addition, Lt Maitha was also the only Arab female referee among 70 international referees at last year's Extreme Euro shooting competition in the Czech Republic.

Her goal, she says, is to inspire the next generation of female military professionals.

“In today's world, gender does not limit one's capabilities or successes,” said Lt Maitha.

“All that Emirati women need to do is follow their passion, and they will excel.”

Updated: February 07, 2024, 3:00 AM