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Feature: Afghan policewomen breaks tradition to uphold law, order in volatile Kandahar

Xinhua, August 22, 2016 Adjust font size:

Women working in conservative Afghanistan especially in the countryside is still regarded as taboo, but Shabana, 29, has dared to break the prohibitive tradition and has joined the police force in the volatile southern province of Kandahar.

"I feel very proud to be a policewoman and to serve my nation," Shabana, who like many Afghans goes by one name, told Xinhua recently.

Dressed in a police uniform tailored for females, with her head covered in a scarf and wearing sunglasses to keep her face veiled in the male-dominated society, Shabana was going about her duties which involved frisking suspicious female travelers at a checkpoint along a street in Kandahar city, as part of a security push in the militancy-plagued region.

Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and spiritual capital of the hardliner outfit until its collapse in late 2001, has been regarded as a hotbed for extremism where Taliban-led militancy claims countless of lives every year.

"I am determined to fight against criminal behavior in society," Shabana declared, lamenting the restrictive traditions that prevent girls from going to school, women from working outside of home and in general hindering the advancement of modernism and social development.

"Although, I know it is risky for a woman in this conservative society to work as policewomen, I am determined to cross all the obstacles imposed by the strict traditions and establish myself as an example of a female serving my country," said the courageous lady.

Recalling some truly bitter memories, Shabana said that her husband, who had also served as police officer, was killed by Taliban insurgents in Kandahar city last year and that his brutal murder by rebels had been the impetus for and underscored her resolve to join the police and fight against lawlessness and insurgency.

"Working outside home for a woman, especially serving in the police force in Kandahar, is extremely risky," Shabana explained.

She added that she is frequently teased and heckled traveling to and from work by male passersby and has even received death threats from her own relatives who regard women working outside the home as bringing shame on her family.

Joining Shabana on the mean streets of Kandahar, another female officer, Laila, 43, was also policing the checkpoint.

"I am searching for female travelers and arresting suspicious ones for further investigation," she said.

"I am hopeful that our society will one day realize the importance of women's roles in ensuring peace and stability as well as economic development in the country."

The majority of Afghan parents, however, are against female members of their families working outside home, unless they are accompanied by close relatives.

Although women in Afghanistan have become more empowered over the past 15 years and are now working as cabinet members, legislators, politicians, businesspeople, artists and singers, they continue to face discriminatory practices in patriarchal Afghanistan and in some areas they are not allowed to choose their life partner.

The Afghan government has been trying hard, nevertheless, to increase the number of female police officers in the national police force and is actively encouraging more women to join the force and serve the nation.

"To some extent we have achieved our goal of recruiting women into the police force and deploy them at checkpoints to help their partners in maintaining law and order," director of Police Training Center in Kandahar, Abdullah Jan, told Xinhua.

Around 1,500 policewomen have been serving across Afghanistan, while a similar number of Afghan women have also been serving with the national army throughout the country, according to official figures. Endit