Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Monday, 22 November 2004

Kandahar's woman detective

Police in Kandahar
Kandahar's police made efforts to prevent intimidation of women during recent elections
The number of women joining the police in Afghanistan is on the rise - thanks in part to the high-profile efforts of Malalai Kakar, the only female detective in the southern city of Kandahar.

Ms Kakar, who is named after Afghanistan's national heroine, is one of the most high-profile women in the country. Under the Taleban, women - who had many activities and jobs severely restricted - were banned from joining the police.

Her prominence is in part due to a famous episode in which she killed three would be assassins in a shoot-out - although she said her everyday life involves tackling theft, fights and murders.

"If it's a female that commits a crime, then I'm the one who will investigate her," Ms Kakar told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"If she's been hurt, it'll be me who takes her to the hospital."

Horrific case

Ms Kakar joined Kandahar's police force in 1982, with her father and brothers also being police officers.

But when the hardline Taleban regime took over Afghanistan she was prevented from working - something she recalled with bitterness.

"They really didn't treat women well at all," she said.

"They couldn't go to parties, see doctors, or go to our brothers' houses - or even be seen with them, or our fathers, in public places."

However, after the Taleban regime was ousted three years ago, Ms Kakar went back to the police - and was instantly given the same job as before.

She wears a burqa when she works - the head-to-toe covering often associated with the Taleban, who strictly enforced its being worn.

But she stressed that she is not forced to.

And she added that in some cases, the burqa actually helps her to do her job.

She recalled one horrific case where she was informed of a woman who had been imprisoned in a house for 10 months, chained by her hands and feet.

When she went to the house - accompanied by the squad - she was initially prevented from entering the house because the children would not open the door.

"Eventually, in my burqa, I convinced them I was their long-lost aunt, and they let me in," she said.

"I entered the house and saw that the whole second floor was closed off... I searched all the rooms and saw a curtain, and pushed it aside... then came the sound of a human voice. When I shone the torch, I saw a woman and a child moving.

"They were all chained up, and when I asked the woman to come out, she whimpered and begged me not to kill her. It took me ages to get her out of there."

Recruitment drive

The woman's hands and feet were chained.

Her son was also chained to her.

"Me and all the officers were crying," Ms Kakar said.

"It was so terrible."

Both had been living on tiny morsels of bread and water for nearly a year.

It finally transpired that she was the widow of the brother of her current husband.

"When their relationship went bad, he'd divorced her," Ms Kakar explained.

"She'd gone round to the house to pick up her possessions, but he'd trapped her and put her in a cage.

"That day was so difficult for all of us."

Many believe that such cases often occur as the result of the fallout of the Taleban's impact on Afghanistan's culture and society, where women were often treated with cruelty and generally viewed as second-class citizens.

But now, Ms Kakar says, there have even been other women recruits to the police force in the city - who say they are inspired to join up by Ms Kakar.

"In Kandahar province, women, men and children all love me," she added.

"They contact me by phone and tell me how happy they are with me."

Silence over Afghan women's rights
07 Oct 04 |  South Asia
Candidate sets out Afghan cure
17 Sep 04 |  South Asia
Women struggle in Afghan cinema
12 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Afghanistan's security nightmare
08 Jan 04 |  South Asia

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific