Afghanistan’s Female Warlord
Hijri 1370-Present (AH); Common Era 1951-Present (CE)
The warlords of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan seem to be a group entirely comprised of men, yet the Afghan female warlord Bibi Ayesha bucks this tradition. Bibi Ayesha is also known as Kaftar, or pigeon, but the diminutive nickname veils a will of steel and a violent, checkered past. Over the past 25 years, she has fought the Taliban, Russians, and rivals in northern Afghanistan’s Narin district in the Baghlan province. Unlike many Afghan women heard about in the media, Bibi Ayesha does not bend to the patriarchal norms of Afghan culture and has fought on the frontlines of battle. However, she does insist upon the escort of a male relative or muhram into battle. Of male relatives, she has four sons of her own who also act as her lieutenants—two of her sons have been killed in battle. In addition to her sons, she claims to have 150 men under her command although UN estimates place the figure closer to 50. According to fellow Afghans, Kaftar is known as a cruel commander who has made a great many enemies in her years as a warlord. Such is the fear that she inspires, that the brigands and bandits who are a constant threat in Afghanistan step warily around her and her family.