ABOVE: Colonel Jamila Bayaz, Afghanistan’s first-ever female police chief, hopes she can be an inspiration to other women
Afghanistan’s first-ever female district police chief drew many glances on Thursday, as she continued her review of the checkpoints across Kabul’s District One.
Colonel Jamila Bayaz was appointed chief of the district two days ago and since then has been inspecting police stations and some of the businesses and government buildings she is tasked with protecting.
Her district, one of ten in the capital, houses the presidential palace, numerous ministries, the central bank and the main money and gold markets.
Bayaz, at 50-years-old, has been in the Afghan police force for 32 years, previously working in criminal investigations and counter-narcotics.
She is the first female police officer to be promoted to district police chief in Afghanistan’s troubled history and being a woman in the public eye has its challenges.
“All eyes were focused on me and I am very optimistic that it will have a positive impact,” said Bayaz, surrounded by bouquets of flowers well wishers had sent her after hearing of her appointment.
“I think for those (women) who didn’t want to go out in a uniform, I can be their inspiration and I can be able to encourage them to go out in their uniforms freely,” she said.
In the two days following her appointment on Monday, she has been doing the rounds of her district accompanied by a large group of police bodyguards.
In the past seven months, several prominent women have been attacked in Afghanistan.
They include two police officers who were killed in the south, an Indian author living in eastern Afghanistan who was killed years after her memoir about 1990s life under Taliban rule became a Bollywood film, and a senator who was wounded in an ambush.
Another parliamentarian was kidnapped by the Taliban and later released in a prisoner exchange.
The assaults have added to growing fears that what few gains Afghan women have made since the US toppled the Taliban government in 2001 could be erased once American-led foreign troops finish withdrawing at the end of the year.
However Bayaz said she is up to the challenge, “I have no fears. I feel God gave me a power within myself and I will carry on my duties very bravely.”