Twenty-nine Afghan women graduated as the country's first female officers during a ceremony that brought smiles, confetti, cheers and tears at the Afghan National Military Academy. But while it was all celebrations at the ceremony, Afghanistan’s first female officers had to struggle hard against social and familial persecution as they sought to enter a traditionally male domain. It is not surprising that only two-thirds of the initial applicants graduated.
Afghan women served in the Soviet-backed military in the 1980s but were sidelined by growing social conservatism in the 1990s, especially once the Taliban took control in 1996. Now, females joining the academy make long-term commitments that involve studying there for one year, additional training, and a total service of two decades.
Iason Athanasiadis is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist.