Afghanistan’s female police: Portraits of courage, patriotism despite grief

At just 22 years old with a small baby to tend to, Fada Astana received a message every spouse of a soldier in combat dreads: Your husband has been killed in action. Suddenly without an income and fearing for her future, Astana two years ago joined the national police force, stationed in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley province, a couple of hours drive north of Kabul. After joining the uniformed ranks of another 26 women, typically between 18 and 30 years old, it didn’t take long for the now 24-year-old Capt. Astana to realize she wasn’t alone. An estimated 100 Afghan soldiers a day die protecting their country from encroaching insurgency, every day leaving scores of widows with little means but to find alternative ways of making ends meet. Typically, war widows receive only a one-off payment from their government of around $1,400 after death. According to Maj. Suraya Fedq, who is director of the women’s police division in Panjshir, there are some women who sign up out of sheer patriotism. However, the vast majority come amid grief-stricken circumstances. “We are all coming here with different kinds of problems. Most of us are poor people, our husbands or our brothers have died and we need the money,” Fedq, 33, who became an officer about five years ago, said…

To read the rest of this fascinating article, and see photos, click on the text above.

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