Golzadeh Hosseini strikes an odd figure, sitting on one of the Afghan Military Training Academy’s plush couches in her US-issued military uniform. Blonde highlights, pink lipstick, plucked eyebrows and a black veil top off her desert camouflage uniform.
As a 35-year-old female commando with the Ministry of Interior’s anti-drug unit, Hosseini is used to hopping on and off army helicopters during interdiction missions in Afghanistan’s southeastern poppy-growing regions. Bunking down for a night in the Afghan countryside alongside male colleagues is part of her job combating narcotics trafficking in a country that is the world’s major source of heroin. But such activities also cut against the grain of Afghanistan’s conservative Islamic social value system.
“My husband’s family refused to speak to me for three years after I told them I was joining the force,” Hosseini said. “They were shocked that in my line of work I might have to spend a night out of the house.”
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Iason Athanasiadis is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist.