Hamas security forces in Gaza have been rounding up young men and forcing them to get haircuts on grounds of inappropriate hairstyles, a rights group has charged.
Some of the youths have even been beaten for styling their hair in a way deemed unacceptable to Gaza's ruling Islamist movement, or wearing low-hung trousers, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Sunday.
"Palestinian police have stopped several young men walking in different areas in the Gaza Strip in the last three days and taken them into custody saying their hair styles are inappropriate," said the PCHR.
"Those young men were forced to get haircuts in a humiliating way and several of them were beaten. They were also forced to sign statements saying they will never grow their hair or have strange hairstyles or even wear low-waist trousers."
The PCHR urged the attorney general to immediately open an investigation into the attacks and the beatings, saying they "undermine personal freedom".
"We severely condemn the detention of several young men in the past few days by the Palestinian police," said the PCHR.
Police spokesman Ayman al-Batinji confirmed some young people had been compelled to get their hair cut, in a move he said was related to inappropriate behaviour on the streets.
"We received several complaints from headmasters saying a number of boys are hanging around on the streets and harassing girls," he said in a statement, adding police had begun the crackdown following "complaints" last week.
But he denied claims of police brutality, saying their treatment of the youngsters was "not as harsh as it appears," without giving further detail.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]