Afghan Strongwoman: Meet Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi

NATO has pushed Afghanistan to promote women in all sectors of public life. Quraishi, one of only three top-ranking police officers, is charged with pushing gender equality, with limited success. But the real threat is the spectre of a return to power of

Colonel Shafiq Quraishi
Colonel Shafiq Quraishi
Frederic Bobin

KABUL- She laughs easily, each time shaking the black shawl that lies on the red shoulder pads of her blue-grey uniform. Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi is a good-humored woman, a rare trait these days considering the current grim atmosphere in Afghanistan.

The Afghan police colonel has a portrait of President Hamid Karzai hanging behind her desk, and the blue flag of the European Union Police Mission (EUPOL) stands in a corner of her office. Quraishi receives people in the safety of the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul, at the end of a street guarded by high-security checkpoints. Her male co-workers gather around her with the kind of respect that makes it immediately evident that Shafiqa Quraishi holds exceptional status here.

One of three female police colonels in all of Afghanistan, Quraishi carries particular weight: she is charged with promoting gender equality in the police forces. After a decade of post-Taliban "reconstruction," Colonel Quraishi's role under the authority of the international community highlights a nagging debate on the real progress of women's rights in Afghanistan.

Shafiqa Quraishi graduated from the police academy in Kabul in 1982. Her rapid rise inside the police hierarchy began in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. In her own way, she is the beacon for the 1,173 female officers in Afghanistan. Heartily encouraged by NATO, recruiting women to join the police forces has been on the fast track recently, with the number of female police officers doubling over the past year. Still, women represent a paltry 0.9% of the country's total police force. Colonel Quraishi is aware of the hurdles that still exist: "Cultural resistances remain very strong. Many families don't want their daughters to enlist in the police forces because it's an environment dominated by men."

Inside Taliban stronghold

Even when an Afghan woman does enter the police forces, moving ahead is unlikely. Shafiqa Quraishi's promotion to the top colonel rank came only after Western countries pleaded with the Afghan government. "We are a society where culture remains more powerful than law," she says. "Lady cops suffer from discrimination from inside the institution."

Shafiqa Quraishi refers to the situation of a policewomen in the northern Baghlan province who, despite her rank, is facing a "total lack of cooperation from her male counterparts." She regrets that some women officers end up quitting their jobs precisely because of these difficulties. A "green hotline" has even been created so they can register their grievances.

Colonel Quraishi wants to accelerate gender equality, but must push for it amidst an ongoing war with a NATO rollback on the horizon – and the possibility now openly mentioned of the return to political power of the Taliban, which is decidedly hostile to any advancement of women's rights.

As a rigorous civil servant, Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi will not address the specifics of the political situation, though she does express her "concern."

Indeed, she remembers very well when the Taliban used to run the country, between 1996 and 2001. She remembers what it was like in those days: "I had to stay home, because women weren't allowed to work anymore. The Afghan people, women in particular, will never forget those dark days."

Colonel Quraishi has received many death threats over the years. Other high-ranked female police officers have been murdered in the past. In the fall of 2008, the female lieutenant-colonel Malalai Kakar was killed in Kandahar, where the Taliban remain powerful. Is it good enough reason to be pessimistic? Colonel Quraishi has been handed optimistic reports stating that the Taliban have changed, or at least, evolved. But she remains stony-faced: "I don't know. I am still worried."

Read the original article in French

Photo - isafmedia

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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