Women's Rights

Daughter of former Taliban militant becomes district police chief in Jawzjan

By Mohammad Qasem

Najiba Noor Delawari is shown in this picture taken last year at her office in Jawzjan police headquarters. [Najiba Delawari/Facebook]

Najiba Noor Delawari is shown in this picture taken last year at her office in Jawzjan police headquarters. [Najiba Delawari/Facebook]

KUNDUZ -- Najiba Noor Delawari grew up in a village under Taliban rule in Qush Tepa district of Jawzjan province.

Her father was a member of the militant group, and like many others subject to the Taliban's harsh restrictions on girls' education, she was forced to leave school after the fifth grade.

Rebelling against her father and the Taliban, Delawari joined the Jawzjan provincial police six years ago.

Soon after, Delawari started encouraging her father to leave the Taliban.

"I told my father: If you continue to be part of the Taliban militant group, people will hate you. However, on the contrary, if you want to live with your family and people, you must leave them," she said.

A year after Delawari joined the police, her father agreed to leave the Taliban and join the peace process, and the family relocated from their home in Darzab district to Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province.

"Before we moved ... to Sheberghan city, I joined the police, and after a year I had to leave my hometown with my family," she said.

Since then, Delawari has continued to put her all into her role as a policewoman.

She went to Turkey in 2017 on a scholarship to attend a five-month military training programme and also took part in several two- to six-month training courses in Afghanistan to improve her professional skills.

She served in many roles on the police force over the past six years, including as head of the department for handling family issues and as chief of staff for the deputy provincial police chief in security affairs.

On May 1, 1st Lt. Delawari, now 25, achieved what to many might be unthinkable for a girl growing up under Taliban rule: she was appointed the first female police chief for Sheberghan city's fifth district.

"I am so lucky that my dream has come true," she told Salaam Times.

Seeking peace

Women are a vital part of the police force, Jawzjan Police Chief Ghulam Jilani Abubakar said at a news conference announcing Delawari's appointment as the fifth district police chief.

"Why shouldn't we have women as district police chiefs?" he said in a video posted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Gandhara on May 19. "We can provide security cover for the region with the help of [female officers]."

"I have been a part of different operations, including arresting criminals, [military] operations, [setting up] checkpoints, patrols and searches," Delawari told Gandhara.

"Today, I have been given a great responsibility that I will fulfill faithfully," she said at the news conference. "[The authorities] have placed their trust in me, and I will reward their trust."

"Peace is the only meaningful option for achieving our dreams," she told Salaam Times. "The Taliban are also our countrymen, and I hope we all witness a durable peace in our country."

"There is no reason to continue the conflict," she said.

Even as she called on the Taliban to join the peace process, Delawari said the militants have continued to threaten her and her family ever since she joined the police force.

"After I moved to Sheberghan, I have repeatedly been threatened by the Taliban," she said. "I never gave up, and I continued to serve on the police force."

"Unfortunately, we left behind all our belongings and livelihoods ... and these were the sacrifices we made, but I did not give up."

Nafisa Haqjo, a women's rights activist in Jawzjan, said she admires Delawari's bravery as a female police officer.

"Under the current circumstances, women rarely decide to serve in the police force," she said, noting the serious risks involved.

Militants have carried out targeted attacks on women, including journalists, judges and security personnel.

The police force is not only the most appropriate place for women's growth and empowerment, but it is also an ideal profession for serving the public, Haqjo said.

"We urge the government to provide more incentives and opportunities for the female police officers because they have played an effective role in ensuring the security of our society," she said.

Recruiting women

The Interior Affairs Ministry is working to recruit more women into law enforcement and the security forces across Afghanistan. Over the next three years, officials set a goal of increasing the number of female security personnel from 4,000 to 10,000.

There are currently 72 women serving on the Jawzjan police force as cadets and officers, many of whom work in women's affairs departments, said Abdul Marouf Azar, a spokesperson for the Jawzjan governor.

"Women's participation in the government is a vital demand in society; therefore, local authorities have always provided necessary opportunities and encouraged them to join the [security forces]," he said.

Other members of the Taliban can also denounce violence, lay down their arms and return to their normal life, said Azar, citing Delawari's experience with her father.

"Miss Delawari sets a good example of bravery by encouraging her father to abandon the Taliban terrorist group," said Mohammad Essa Ghayour, a civil society activist in Jawzjan.

"I hope other women also follow the suit and like Delawari try to convince their sons and husbands to leave the Taliban and return to a peaceful life."

Although women taking leadership roles in the government are essential for progress, local customs and the prevailing cultural norms have discouraged women from pursuing careers in the military, said Abdul Kabir Rashidi, a military affairs analyst in Jawzjan.

"I call on women to join the police force because the government has provided special incentives and many good opportunities for them," he said.

"Just as a society needs a female doctor, engineer or teacher, it also needs professional [women] police officers."

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It is very surprising that a Talib's daughter has joined the ranks of the security forces and is fighting against Taliban. This lady must be careful because if she is captured by Taliban, she will be brutally murdered.