In northern Afghanistan, a female governor recruits militants against the Taliban

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Salima Mazari reclines carelessly in the front seat of a van driving through a northern district of Afghanistan, a popular song blasting through the overhead speaker.

In this very patriarchal and conservative country, Mazari is one of the few female district governors. And he has a mission: to recruit people willing to fight the Taliban.

“My country (…), I sacrifice my life to you,” the song sings. In these times, this is what the governor asks of her citizens.

The Taliban have occupied extensive rural territories in the last three months, taking advantage of the almost complete withdrawal of international forces present for two decades in Afghanistan.

In many places, with a traditional way of life, the arrival of these Islamic fundamentalists has not changed the daily life of its inhabitants.

But in Charkint, a remote mountainous district 75 km from Mazar-i-Sharif, the great northern city, the stakes are high.

At the age of 39, the region’s first female governor had a battle to fight even before the conflict struck.

“Socially, people were not prepared to accept a female leader,” the governor confided to AFP, her head covered by a shawl with a pattern in the shape of butterflies and her eyes covered by large sunglasses.

He is also a member of the eminently Shiite Hazara community, persecuted for many years by Sunni extremists in this country torn by ethnic and religious divisions.

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