How A 50-Year-Old Mother-Of-Five Became One Of Afghanistan's Top Cops

Jamila Bayaz AP Photo/Massoud HossainiCol. Jamila Bayaz, 50, talks to the phone at her office in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan don’t have easy lives. They may have gained greater educational and democratic opportunities since the Taliban’s overthrow, but they still face one of the highest rates of violence in the world and the prospect of darker times as NATO forces withdraw.

But impressively, Col. Jamila Bayaz, 50, was just appointed the country’s first-ever female district police chief, serving in District 1 in the capital city of Kabul.

Bayaz began her career more than 30 years ago as a plainclothes officer, wearing traditional female garb. During the Taliban’s oppressive five-year rule, however, she stayed at home and took care of her two daughters and three sons, the Associated Press reported. She went on to work in
criminal investigation and counter-narcotics before her latest promotion on Monday, Jan. 13.

“It was interesting for the people to see a woman in uniform,” she told the AP. Still, Bayaz wears a head scarf instead of the regulation cap.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry can take credit for her promotion, a “wise step taken,” Major General Mohammad Zahir Zahir, Kabul’s Provincial Police Chief (the next rank up from district chief) told NBC News.

In Afghanistan, women can only speak to female officers, but the country employs just 1,551 of them — one for every 10,000 women, according to Oxfam.
Through awareness campaigns and funding, the United Nations Develop Programme hopes to recruit 5,000 more women to Afghan police forces by June 2014. Those who join face discrimination and harassment daily and sometimes worse.

“My children are worrying about me, but I am optimistic that I will stay safe,” Bayaz told NBC.

In July 2013, Islam Bibi, Helmand province’s top female police official, died from a gunshot wound to the neck. Even before that, her brother tried to kill her three times, she earlier told The Telegraph. Another outspoken female officer, only identified as Lt. Nigara, was shot in September.

The Taliban has threatened to kill Bayaz, referencing her gratitude toward the U.S. for her new position, according to Dispatch News Desk. “I want to thank America and the international community for all of their help and support. I would not be here today if it weren’t for all of their assistance,” Bayaz reportedly said.

The Taliban also tried to kill Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl championing women’s rights. And look what happened — she became a beacon for pacifism and women’s rights across the globe. Bayaz hopes she can do the same.

“I think for those (women) who didn’t want to go out in a uniform, I can be their inspiration,” she told GlobalNews.

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