Women line up for Afghan army

September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

This week the first female Afghan officers in almost twenty years were allowed into the nation’s army.  The troubled nation is still a fighting ground for American troops and the Taliban, a war which the 29 female recruits reportedly said they were “keen as mustard” to fight in.

It’s funny how things go full circle. Women were commissioned in the army in 1980s, when the country was at war with the Russians. When the state descended into civil war and the Taliban took control of the country,  female citizens were stripped of the most basic of rights, and this was another opportunity denied to them.

The new recruits won’t be sent to the front line, but the women will increasingly become part of a national army and police force that will be left to control the country once foreign forces are removed completely by 2014 (or that’s the current intention, at least). And being able to join the army but not the front line brings these female soldiers into line with troops across Europe.

It is worth taking a minute to consider the bravery of these women. Joining the army – a daunting job in itself – in Afghanistan is never going to meet with universal approval. Reports of attacks by extremists on police stations are not unusual,  and these woman are going to be right in the firing line if you’ll excuse a rather tasteless pun.

But it’s a great step forward for equality. Female officer Mari Sharifi really said it all: “I am fully committed to serving my country, the same way as my Afghan brothers currently serving in the army.”

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