Lack of policewomen an issue for Balkh: Residents

Balkh police command, July 2020.

The lack of female police members in Balkh has challenged the recent house-to-house search campaign by the Taliban as residents say it was an issue for them and that there is a need for a “meaningful” role for women in the security sector.

Afghanistan was already faced with a lack of policewomen under the previous government that had roughly 4,000 female police members in the last days before it fell to the Taliban. The formation of Balkh was 150 policewomen, according to figures.

Nadir Sirat, a Balkh resident, said there is still a big need for women to return to their jobs or to be hired at least for the house-to-house search, which is often carried out in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif by the provincial police command.

“The presence of women in this process is a must because a horror is created for women and children whenever all-men teams enter people’s homes,” he said.

“The Taliban must appoint women in the security sector… Men cannot search women at the Blue Mosque and it is a must for the security of this place,” said Zahra Yazdani, a Balkh resident.

Afghanistan had 157,000 police force members under the previous government before it collapsed. Nearly 2.7% of them were women.

Appointing women in police command

Baz Mohammad Huzaifa, a recruiting commander for the Taliban in Balkh, said that 143 women will be appointed in the security sector to serve in various areas.

“Two women will be appointed in each police district, four in the police command, two for each district, four for the Blue Mosque,” he said.

He said that female members of the former government are also among those who have been and will be appointed in the security sector.

Treatment of former policewomen has been a much-debated issue under the Taliban government. Back in January, a policewoman and a male member of her family were killed in an armed attack on their home in Balkh. Taliban was accused of the attack at the time, but the group rejected the allegations and vowed an investigation into the incident. However, nothing has been reported on the incident so far.

Returning to the job

A female police member who served for nearly 10 years under the previous government, said she has returned to her job under the Taliban, but the environment is “different” than it was before.

Zainab, an alias for the woman, 38, said she returned to her job after nearly eight months, but she had “the fear” in her mind. However, she said, she remains committed to serving the people.

“I returned with the hope to serve the people, but the job is tough now,” she said. “Our appointment has been symbolic, and we are not allowed to take part in any mission.”

Zainab explained that the only job they would do is to search those who visit government offices, but they don’t have any authority.

“We are only for searching. We are not kept updated on security issues that are relevant to women. All cases are followed by the Taliban members,” she added.