Col. Gregory Breazile
— Growing up in the United States provides an environment where men and women have opportunities to advance themselves based on their own personal desires.
This is not the case in a society such as in Afghanistan. The Afghan society is a conservative Muslim culture based on traditional values that may seem foreign to most westerners.
Afghans view the public roles of men and women as separate and not to be intermingled. The men primarily work outside of the home while most of the women take care of the family. For this reason it is difficult for Afghan women to break away and have an independent role in their society.
The surprising fact is that some do break the mold and seek jobs traditionally filled by men. Afghan women are actually being recruited into the Afghan National Police. The police need Afghan women in their ranks because they must be available to search other women during heightened security situations.
Afghan women police attend training alongside their male counterparts. They sit in the same classrooms but must sit in a designated area and not actually comingled with the men in the class.
The Afghan women police complete the same period of instruction and tasks that the men complete and have a very good success rate. When asked about Afghan women police, Italian Carabinieri Brig Gen Carmelo Burgio said, “they are trained and they show commitment.” He explained that there are still very few Afghan women police being recruited and that currently there are only 31 Afghan women attending police training. Burgio also stated that recently an Afghan woman police officer graduated as the number one student from the police instructor's course.
Afghan Brig. Gen. Khudadad Agah, commander of the Police Central Training Center in Kabul, stated that the history of Afghan women police goes back 40 years. He said “during the communist days we also had women police.” He said the women police are facing very bad conditions and that this type of work was too far from the Islamic cultural values. He said that “many Afghans just don't understand the need for women police and we can't recruit enough because of the Islamic religion.”
While the number of Afghan women recruited into the police is small they show promise for the future of Afghanistan. The fact that these few brave women are willing to put their lives on the line in a war-torn country like Afghanistan gives us hope for the future of this country.
These Afghan women police are forging the way for all women in their society by demonstrating that they can break away from the traditional societal roles. This is difficult in a society where many men believe women are for the home and not to be seen in public. The independence of these women is truly inspiring and they will one day be viewed as heroines of Afghanistan.
Col. Breazile is the director of communication, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He is a combat veteran with 26 years of Marine Corps service. He lives in Stillwater.