London, Asharq Al-Awsat- In the middle of the mountains that surround the Afghan province of Baghlan, the only female Afghan warlord lives in a well-fortified house in the Nahrin district, but Bibi Ayesha’s years are coming to an end, yet the woman known as Kaftar [the pigeon] will live long in the Afghan memory because of the sacrifices she made during her years of fighting against the Soviets, and later against the Taliban. Bibi Ayesha, the last and only female Afghan warlord is 60 years old.
Asharq Al-Awsat conducted a telephone interview with the Pashtun Bibi Ayesha, who does not speak Arabic, via translation by Mohamed Siddiq Tashkiri, Afghan Minister of Hajj and Religious Endowments, who speaks Arabic fluently having graduated from the Islamic University in Medina. In this interview Bibi Ayesha revealed that she had never met Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, but that she had heard news of him during the Soviet war in Afghanistan from Arab fighters. Bibi Ayesha also said that she commanded a company of approximately 150 Mujahedeen, and that during the war against the Soviets this company included a Saudi and an Algerian national. Bibi Ayesha fought on the front lines, but adhered to the Islamic practice of mahram, being accompanied by either her husband or sons.
Bibi Ayesha informed Asharq Al-Awsat that she fought the Taliban because the restrictions that they imposed [upon Afghanistan] were a distortion of the image of Islam and that “the Taliban wanted to return women to the era of darkness…it is enough that they prohibited girls from education in school.”
Bibi Ayesha said that she handed over most of her weapons to the Afghan government, with the exception of the Russian Maarakov pistol that hung in her shoulder holster. Bibi Ayesha informed Asharq Al-Awsat that she was particularly upset at having to hand over the ancient British Lee-Enfield rifle which was the weapon of choice in the region before the proliferation of the Kalashnikov.
Bibi Ayesha, who is 60 years of age, and has lost 13 members of her family to war, including two sons said that “I have no desire to continue the fight” and denied that women had no place on the front line saying “There is no difference between a man and a woman in combat, the important thing is to have the heart of a fighter.”
Answering a question posed by Asharq Al-Awsat on the current condition of women’s rights in Afghanistan, Bibi Ayesha answered “The suffering of Afghan women is not over yet, because it is a legacy of centuries of customs and traditions that will not be changed overnight.”
Kabul held an art exhibition of pictures of Bibi Ayesha engaging in battle last week Belgian – Algerian artist Hadia Lahbib contributed with a number of pictures of the female warlord Bibi Ayesha firing a Kalashnikov rifle, as well as another picture of the Darul Aman Palace in central Kabul which was turned to rubble as a result of Mujahedeen shelling prior to the capital falling into Taliban hands in 1996.