Today in Afghanistan women make up half the population. During the days of the “Soviet presence” a certain number of them was serving in the Afghan police, but when Taliban took over this trend gradually died off. As of 2005 out of a total of 72 thousand people serving in the local police forces only 160 were women. But as of lately the situation has drastically changed, In 2011 out of 122 thousand people employed by the Afghan law enforcement agencies, 1073 were women. By July 2013 this number increased to 1551 which accounts for 1% of all the policemen.
The process of recruiting more women to the law enforcement agencies is extremely complicated, despite the fact that significant resources were allocated to make this project. Still numerous policemen confined to researchers that they didn’t feel comfortable serving shoulder to shoulder with representatives of the fair sex. But this doesn’t prevent women from taking up assault rifles to defend their country. According to the statement made by the Afghan Chief Interior Minister in the coming years the law enforcement agencies are planning to recruit up to a thousand women annually to enhance the security of the country. Within the next decade the number of women serving in Afghan law enforcement agencies should hit 10 thousand officers. Opinions may differ but one thing is sure – this project has a lot of potential.
The advantages of employing women are obvious especially in Afghanistan, where Taliban is hiring women terrorists to execute suicide attacks or use their own militants disguised as women to pass police checkpoints without arousing any suspicion. This has become possible due to the fact that the rigid traditions of the Afghan society forbid men to touch women, say nothing about searching them, yet nothing prevents women-officers from searching their fellow sex. Furthermore if a suspicious man is trying to lose followers in the ladies world, a female officer can easily follow him.
In a society dominated by rigid social traditions, the majority of women that are opting for serving their country are faced with prejudices. Due to this fact most women-officers are wearing traditional civilian clothes off duty . They do it primarily to avoid confrontation with the local population. Still some officers believe that they shouldn’t obey this rule.
The training of the newly hired women policemen is executed by Afghan training officers along with NATO advisers at NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan centers – NTM-A. Women are getting proficient in various aspects of police duty, including handling offenders, ensuring public safety at specific sites and patrolling. They study ways to combat organized crime and terrorism, learn modern warfare tactics and the handling of certain weapons.
On January 14, 2014 for the first time in the country’s history, in Afghanistan where the majority of the population is ardently supporting the paranja, a woman was appointed Chief at the local police station. It was the 50-year-old Colonel Jamil Boyyaz, a mother of five children. She started her career as a security officer at an airport some 30 years ago, then when the Taliban took the country over, like all the other women in the country she was taking care of her household. For the last five years Jamil Boyyaz was employed as an investigator in Kabul, and now she is entrusted with a police station in the heart of the Afghan capital, in the business section of the old town, where most government offices are situated.
It should be noted that the traditional Muslim society actively resists the emancipation of women, and women officers are being attacked not by the Taliban alone, they are also getting abused by their male colleagues.
It’s a common discussion in Afghanistan today that after the withdrawal of the international troops from the country the presence of women in the police force should end. However, senior policy makers of the Afghan society, which now have taken Jamila Bayaz in their ranks, refute such predictions and believe that, despite the problems, the employment of women in the security forces could be truly beneficial to the Afghan people and for the women themselves. Such statements are supported by the actual facts, in particular by the growing number of women who want to serve in the national police and cannot be stopped by the rigid traditions or terrorist threats.
Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.