'From burkas to bullets': Surrey filmmaker puts Afghan military women under the lens

The Taliban banned women from attending school after it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. Since then, and following the U.S.-led invasion of the country, the rights of women have greatly progressed. 

Thousands are active in the country's military and police force — a sight that stood out to journalist and filmmaker Alison Maclean when she was embedded with Canadian forces in Kandahar in 2010.

She worked alongside many of the women, getting to know their stories and building relationships.

"I was invited back to Afgahistan by Afghan police and military women who wanted their story told," she told CBC's The Early Edition.

The invitation evolved into a film titled Burkas 2 Bullets which explores how women's rights in Afghanistan have gradually evolved since the Taliban era, through the lens of female soldiers and officers.

Burkas 2 Bullets

"The women are so brave, and they're excited because they want to take back their country," said MacLean.

One of the characters featured in the documentary include Col. Najiba, a mother of five who commands both men and women. 

However, despite many women prospering in these military roles, MacLean says their jobs are among the most dangerous.

"The Taliban issued a fatwa against policewomen. which is basically a death sentence. Quite a few policewomen and military women have been assassinated," she said.

MacLean says such attacks are commonplace throughout the country. She hopes her documentary will raise awareness about the dangers these women face, and their strength for continuing the work that they do.

The documentary debuts tonight at the SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: 'From burkas to bullets': Surrey filmmaker puts Afghan military women under the lens