Bullets and Burqas

With no men left to fight, rural Afghanistan's women must take up arms against IS and the Taliban

Bullets and Burqas Years of war have left many of Afghanistan's remote rural communities devoid of young men to defend villages from IS and Taliban insurgencies. Recently the two groups have formed a shaky alliance, and as a result, Afghanistan's government has turned to recruiting women to form militias capable of staving off attacks on their homes. What they lack in military drilling they make up for with hatred for their enemy, many of them having lost sons and husbands to the insurgent groups.

“Look at this closely. This is his photo. What did he do wrong? He didn’t do anything wrong. Because of him, now that my boy is gone, I’m taking up arms because of him.” The Taliban killed Sara’s son. A grandmother, Sara is now chief breadwinner and protector of her family. Yet Sara insists that she, and other women who have lost family members to Daesh and the Taliban, are not afraid of fighting the insurgencies. “We’re not afraid. If we fear Daesh and the Taliban today our future will be ruined tomorrow.” Yet with Afghanistan’s conservative gender politics, many women face oppression and exclusion if they decide to take up arms. Najiba Rajabi’s decision to become a police trainer nearly cost her life. “I receive a lot of threats. The Taliban still threaten me."

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