Why would a 50-year-old mother of five want to hold a dangerous job, in a country that isn’t exactly Nirvana, no less? When you’re Jamila Bayaz, a colonel in the Afghan National Police Force, risk taking is part of your DNA. The daughter of a police officer, she quit her university studies over 30 years ago to join the Police Academy, lured by the excitement that a police career would offer. It’s been a job she loves more than her “own breath,” she told a newspaper reporter. One of only 1,500 women police officers in Afghanistan, Jamila recently became the country’s first female officer to command her own district—the 1st district of Kabul—which includes the nation’s main money exchange and central bank.
Jamila’s appointment is being seen as a way to show the West that Afghanistan is committed to respecting women’s rights, although discrimination still runs rampant in the country. Women in political positions or in the police force are at increased risk of attack, with several deadly assaults in recent months. Men under Jamila’s authority have been known to run to the bathroom to avoid saluting her. Although women represent about 1 percent of Afghanistan’s police force, the number is expected to increase to over 5 percent by year end.
The new FOF female police chief has worked as a criminal investigator and counter drug specialist in the city of 4.5 million. She considers drugs second only to terrorism among the top threats that face her nation. Determined to help her country return to peace and prosperity following three decades of war and terrorism, Jamila is a courageous woman with a heart. That’s why she is FOF Woman of the Week.