The Afghan women defying convention to become special forces commandos

  • Women recruited to take part in night raids of suspected Taliban homes
  • Female commandos must cover their faces to protect their identities
  • They receive death threats for doing job traditionally done by men

By Emily Davies

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They face death threats for breaking tradition, but two dozen women have been recruited as special forces commandos in the Afghan Army.

Colonel Jalauddin Yaftaly, head of elite units in the Afghan forces, sought to hire women in 2011 because they were needed to help conduct night raids.

Night missions are considered the most dangerous operations because they involve raiding the homes of suspected Taliban insurgents under the cover of darkness and searching the inhabitants.

Two dozen women were hired to play an important role in night raids carried out by the Afghan special forces

Two dozen women were hired to play an important role in night raids carried out by the Afghan special forces

Before women joined the special forces the raids were seen as controversial because it is considered offensive for male troops to search female Afghans in their homes.

Now, with new female recruits on board, where possible women search women.

 

But despite the role the female recruits play to allow more dignity for the women they search, their work has made them targets in Afghanistan - where women face a culture of discrimination.

Female recruits cover their faces with scarves to protect their identities because they face death threats

Female recruits cover their faces with scarves to protect their identities because they face death threats

Zakia Halakim, 21, worked for the Afghan police force when she was head hunted by Colonel Yaftaly to join the special forces.

She said: 'We do face death threats because our work is outside of our culture but this is an important job.

Brigadier General Mohammadzai Khatool is the only woman general in the Afghan Army

Brigadier General Mohammadzai Khatool is the only woman general in the Afghan Army

'My family supports me, they never told me not to do it. They know it is important for Afghanistan,' she told NBC.

The women wear sunglasses and scarves around their faces to protect their identities, and their role has been limited to night raids.

Mahbouba Seraj, an executive board member at the Afghan Women’s Network, said: 'As far as the culture in this country, no it’s not acceptable in this country at all. It goes against every single grain of belief of an Afghan man.

'These women are amongst the bravest in Afghanistan. I appreciate the first steps that they are taking so much. I wish I could be alive and be around to see them become generals in this country.'

There are more than 1,000 women in the Afghan Army and Brigadier General Mohammadzai Khatool is the only female general.

She had been forced to leave the military when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, but when the Taliban fell in 2002 she returned and was promoted to general. 

She said: 'Men and women are like two wings of the one bird. Working together, both are trying to defend their country and their people.'

 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

give em hell ladies.

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they're still wearing that head covering though, that sort of defied the purpose.

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Seriously that's a woman??? Naw I don't think so

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GO GET EM GIRLS

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good for them if it helps to bring sense to their country

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wonder?if like the girl british soldiers, they will not actually have to fight in hand to hand combat as they are too weak

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This is bravery on a whole new level. This has the power to change the very fundamentals of Afghan society. Best of luck to them.

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You go girls. There have been women warriors all over the world for thousands of years. Stop being shocked.

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just what have these people got against Hair?

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They are very brave and deserve all our support.

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