Editor’s note: Women for Afghan Women is holding its anniversary gala in New York this week and will award the Malalai Kakar Human Rights Award to women’s rights advocate Mahira Ahmadzai of Afghanistan. Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani will speak at the May 28 event, which also honors  former ambassador Swanee Hunt, who went to Afghanistan to talk to Taliban leaders while they were in power, and media mogul Tina Brown. AWWP’s writers in Kandahar collaborated to write this story about Malalai Kakar, the heroic policewoman killed by the Taliban in 2008.

Malalai Kakar was just 15 years old when she boldly followed in her father’s footsteps to join the government security forces in Kandahar.

Her father had been in the military. When she finished her schooling, she too trained in the military forces to become the first woman police officer in the southern province.

Her dream of helping to keep her people safe was interrupted in the 1990s when the Taliban took over and women were banned from public life. But as Kakar once told an interviewer: “In the Taliban’s time women’s rights were violated, so I myself did not want to work with them!”

She married and kept busy with her six children until the Taliban were overthrown in 2001 and she could return to the police force.

Kakar was a woman who worked 15 hours a day, but she would have worked 24 hours a day for her people if she could have. After the collapse of the Taliban, she returned to her job. She was the only policewoman in Kandahar who worked in general security. She had responsibility as the head of the department’s Crimes Against Women.  She helped manage the women’s prison and she became known as someone who listened to the problems of women in Kandahar.

She was well known to the media when, in 2008 at the age of 40, gunmen on a motorcycle shot her in the head as she headed to work. One of her sons was with her on the motorcycle and was seriously injured.  Taliban took credit for the attack. The police chief of Kandahar said at the time that she had previously received death threats.

Her killing was widely condemned and today the legacy of Malalai Kakar lives on and she is known as the first Policewoman of Kandahar.

By the Kandahar Writers’ Group

Photo of Malalai Kakar by Stefania Zamparelli