Female soldiers are rare in Afghanistan. And female generals are even rare. Gen. Khatool Mohammadzai (left) is the only servicing female general in Afghanistan. There is only one other woman in the country who has ever held the rank. Gen. Khatool joined the air force because of her childhood dream to be a parachutist. She is the only Afghan parachutist in the country, male or female. Gen. Khatool joined the armed forces in the early 1980s under the pro-Moscow regime. At that time Kabul was mostly peaceful; women in the capital enjoyed basic freedoms and the burqa was not yet common. After the Islamic conservatives seized power in 1992, women had to wear headscarves and attend single-sex schools, but Gen. Khatool still maintained her duty in the army. In 1996 Taliban took control and imposed harsher restrictions on women, banned women from attending school and working. Under the Taliban, Khatool who had studied law at Kabul University was relegated to selling blankets and handicrafts at home to survive. After the US invasion, the Hamid Karzai regime has more tolerant attitude toward women. Khatool took up her former job as physical trainer for the air force. In 002 President Karzai promoted her from colonel to general after she parachuted into Kabul during a festival commemorating the 10th anniversary of the end of communist rule.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 2008

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