Since the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, opened its doors to women in 2001, their ranks have grown to a modest, yet proud seven percent. But of the 13,000-strong female force, very few are Muslims. Staff Sergeant Narima H. speaks five languages, wears a uniform, takes part in dangerous foreign missions and believes in Allah. And as a woman of Islamic faith, the 29-year-old is precisely the kind of asset the Bundeswehr needs when trying to bridge the cultural gaps that the security of its soldiers and the success of its operation depend on. At present, the Bundeswehr is almost exclusively active in countries where the majority of the population is Muslim, and Narima’s next mission is no exception. She is currently preparing for another deployment to Afghanistan. “I am learning Dari,” she told Deutsche Welle. “My company is based in Kundus and that is one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan – specifically northern Afghanistan.” The trip will be her fourth foreign assignment.
“If we have migrants from countries where we are on a mission, we can learn a lot,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ulrich Kirsch of the Federal Armed Forces Association. “We can draw on their intercultural expertise.” Although Narima H. does not come from Afghanistan – she is of Moroccan descent but was born and raised in Germany – she shares her belief in Allah with the majority of the population in Hindu Kush. And that mutual faith has already proved useful in dealing with local people.
“I was in Kundus in Afghanistan last year and it was quite easy for me to communicate with people there, especially with Afghani women,” the young soldier said, adding that as soon as they realized she was Muslim, they opened doors for her.