Bereaved women take up arms to fight ISIS in northern Afghanistan

Hundreds of women in Afghanistan�s northern Jawzjan province who have taken up arms against Islamist militants.

Bereaved women take up arms to fight ISIS in northern Afghanistan

Hundreds of women in Afghanistan’s northern Jawzjan province who have taken up arms against Islamist militants.

Nearly all of the women have lost a husband, son or brother to the Taliban or the newly active Islamic State in the province bordering Turkmenistan.

Determined to protect their families, the women approached a local police commander, Sher Ali, in December and asked him for guns and ammunition.


“They came to me and said that if I didn’t provide them with weapons they would kill themselves - before Daesh or the Taliban could,” Ali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The women are not a properly structured group, he said; they have no uniform and have not received any military training other than how to point a gun at the enemy and shoot.

The Taliban has carried out attacks in Jawzjan for the last decade, part of a country-wide insurgency to topple the Afghan government and drive out foreign troops.


Islamic State became active in the province - a gateway to Central Asia - in early 2016, when a Taliban commander and 50 of his fighters declared allegiance to the ultra-hardline group, said Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, spokesman for Jawzjan governor.

On Dec 25, Islamic State fighters attacked Garmjar village and killed five civilians, burned down about 60 houses and forced 150 families to flee, he said by instant messenger.

The women fighters are not registered with the army or police and the government has not licensed their weapons, Abdul Hafiz Khashi, head of the security department of Jawzjan police, was reported as saying in the Afghan media last week.

Although local police have cautiously welcomed the new defence force, he said, the rag-tag women’s unit has raised concerns among higher authorities.