The Ambiguous Fate of Women in Afghanistan’s Armed Forces

Female soldiers in Parwan province say they have become destitute since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, adding that they are in precarious security and economic situation. They say security threats on the one hand and poverty on the other have made life difficult for them. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s interior ministry says they are working on a method to clarify the fate of female police officers.

Farida, a middle-aged woman, is a member of the armed forces of the former government. She has served in the police forces for six years. Farida is now in a dire situation with eight half-height children and an older husband. She told Hasht-e Subh that she had joined the police forces about six years ago to find “a piece of bread”, but had been unemployed since the collapse of the previous regime. Farida added that she no longer has a breadwinner except herself, stressing that her husband is ill and unable to work. “I served in the police forces for six years,” Farida said. “Once my three-year contract expired, I extended the contract. I have a son and he is not young enough to work. My husband is old, sick, and unable to work. I had to join the police forces. After the Taliban took over the country, I worked for a raisin company for a few days and earned 100 afghanis per day, but the company shut down.”

Security threats to the forces affiliated with the former government are another major challenge that Farida is grappling with. Farida says that because of security threats, she goes from home to the market with “fear and shivering” to buy food and other necessities for her family members. She says she is willing to return to her job to get a piece of bread if the Taliban government wants women police officers to return to duty. “I am living in fear and trembling now so that no one will harm me because of my background,” said the former police officer. I go to the market very hard. If the Taliban government gives us a job and a salary, I will return to my job to handle my difficulties.”

Zaki, 13, the only son of the policewoman, with tears in his eyes and trembling lips, asks the aid agencies and the Taliban to help them. “Help our family, at least for a while, until I get younger,” Zaki said. “We are in a difficult situation.”

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry of the Taliban says that although there is no mechanism for hiring or retaining female police officers, work is underway.

Aqiljan Azzam, the deputy spokesman for the Taliban’s interior ministry, told Hasht-e Subh that female employees were currently working in the ministry’s administrative departments.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported that more than 5,200 women were serving in the military, police, and national directorate of security by 2020. Simultaneously with the fall of the previous government, the security and defense forces collapsed.