Khatol Mohammadzai was active in the Afghan army for more than 30 years. She earned many awards and made nearly 600 parachute jumps from an airplane. In addition, Mohammadzai has trained hundreds of Ministry of Defense members.
But it took the U.S.-led military coalition’s defeat of the Taliban in 2001 to make it possible for Mohammadzai to become a general. She is the first woman in Afghanistan to reach the rank of general. For years, the Afghan National Army has been considered a man’s army.
Khatol said, “When I move around the city with my uniform, people show great affection…I have motivated many young people to join the army. People from the provinces say they love me and my professions.”
In Afghanistan, joining the military is not an easy choice for women. They face opposition from families and male co-workers. Reports say they are denied promotions, training and security.
But the 103 female cadets at the Marshal Fahim Military Academy in Kabul want to change the military culture.
Gulalay is an army cadet. She said she is working for the security of her country. She said, “My goal from the beginning is to promote myself to the level of General Khatol or even higher than her.”
Women and men train separately at the academy. However, Afghan officers say their programs are similar. Both receive physical education, weapons and medical care training.
Cadet Sima Amiri says that she is one of the few women who had her father’s support to join the army.
She said, “My message to the families is to encourage their daughters and help them in their decision to join the National army.”
Khatol has urged for the expansion of service for women.
She said, “It was my education and hard work that enabled me to raise the Aghan flag in the world. I request my heroic brothers and sons to strive for education of their daughters.”
The Ministry of Defense says 1,700 women serve in the Afghan Army, about 1 percent of the total.
I'm Susan Shand.
Jill Craig reported this story for VOA News. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
parachute – n. a piece of equipment usually made of cloth that is fastened to people or things and that allows them to fall slowly and land safely after they have jumped or been dropped from an aircraft
uniform – n. a special kind of clothing that is worn by all the members of a group or organization
promotion – n. the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank in an organization
cadet –n. a student at a military school preparing to become an officer
encourage – v. to make someone more determined, hopeful, or confident
strive – v. to try very hard to do or achieve something