Rob Crilly, Telegraph (London), January 14, 2014
Afghanistan has its first female police chief after appointing an officer with 25 years experience to head a district of the capital Kabul.
Officials said Colonel Jamila Bayaz would run one of the city’s most important police stations in a move that they hope will pave the way for more women to rise through the ranks.
The role of women in society is frequently cited as an example of progress made in Afghanistan since the Taliban were driven from Kabul in 2001, but human rights campaigners fear the gains are being eroded as Nato forces withdraw.
Colonel Jamila previously served at the Ministry of Interior’s offices in Kabul but will now take over the capital’s 1st police district, making her the most senior female police officer in the country.
“I think my assignment to this post will persuade others to join the police force,” she told Tolo News.
The appointment puts her in the firing line. High profile women have become targets for militants — and even conservative relatives.
Last year the most senior female police in Helmand was shot dead as she left her home to go to work. Lieutenant Islam Bibi had ignored death threats from her own brother over pursuing a career in the police force.
One of the country’s best known female politicians has also been forced to flee the country after suffering abuse at the hands of her husband. Noor Zia Atmar had once been a symbol of a new country, pushing through reforms after the 2005 elections, before losing her seat and going into hiding.
In the meantime, international donors are funding programmes to recruit female police officers. A UN project hopes to recruit 5,000 women by June this year, pushing up the proportion of women in the force beyond one per cent.
Government officials want to see double that number and hope they will appoint a woman to the job of provincial police chief before long.
Gen Mohammed Zahir Zahir, the Kabul police chief, said Col Jamila would take over one of Kabul’s most important police stations.
“We don’t seek to place a female officer in a weak station — it’s not like that,” he said. “We started this process at this station because women are capable of working like men.”
Her appointment could not come at a more critical time. Presidential elections are due to be held in April and Nato-led forces are due to end combat operations in Afghanistan this year, putting local troops and police officers at the forefront of fighting the Taliban and other militant groups.