Feature: Afghan woman escapes tradition to serve on police force in ex-Taliban hotbed

by Abdul Haleem, Manan Arghand

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan, July 13 (Xinhua) -- In conservative Afghan society, people particularly in the countryside regard women working outside of their family home as a "taboo."

But one brave female, Masouma, 45, has escaped the cultural barriers and joined the police force to break the taboo and show that women can compete with men in all arenas.

She's currently shattering these cultural restrictions right on her own back door as she works to bring law, order and stability to her home province of Uruzgan.

"Serving as a police officer in the patriarchal society is extremely difficult and risky but I have taken the risk to overcome the harmful traditions and cultural barriers on one hand, and on the other, to encourage other women to follow suit," Masouma, who like many Afghans goes by one name, told Xinhua.

Dressed in her police uniform from dawn until dusk and serving as female police officer in Tirin Kot, Uruzgan's provincial capital city, 370 km southwest of Kabul, Masouma said she was proud of being a police officer.

"I have been working in the police force for the past 13 years and presently I am the commander of 23 female police personnel in Tirin Kot city," Masouma said excitedly. "It is my honor that my team and I have been contributing to maintaining law and order in my province. I feel very proud of my job and what I'm doing."

Once a former stronghold of Taliban militants, Uruzgan has been the scene of increasing militancy and sometimes fierce fighting between the government troops and armed groups over the past few years.

Living in a rented house in the beleaguered Tirin Kot city and taking care of an 11-member family, the valiant Masouma revealed that her husband was killed in a clash with Taliban militants two years ago and that she herself has been receiving threatening calls from the armed insurgents to quit her job or face the music.

Militants in Afghanistan have killed countless government employees including female police personnel over the past decade.

Playing down the threats, she said proudly that she would continue her job as a police officer to serve the people and was hopeful that one day her dream of "returning lasting peace to Afghanistan" would be realized.

Masouma received a six-month training course in Turkey and is now popular among her fellow Uruzgan residents for her hard work.

The hardworking female police officer said the idea of a female police officer would have been "unthinkable during the Taliban's reign," which ended 16 years ago, saying "today it is a reality and more women would like to join the police ranks in the future."

"Women make up half of society and in my opinion supporting them certainly maneuvers society towards progress and suppressing them now would draw a harsh backlash," she observed.

[ Editor: meng ]


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