Hanifa Safi, the provincial head of the Afghan ministry of women’s affairs, was killed on Friday when a bomb attached to her car exploded as she drove through the capital of Laghman province, Mehtar Lam, about 93 miles east of Kabul. The BBC reports that her husband and daughter were also injured, as well as ten civilians.
Sarhadi Zwak, the provincial governor’s spokesman, would not say to Reuters if the Taliban are thought to be involved. Zwak only said that “enemies of Afghanistan” were behind the attack.
Reporting from Kabul, the BBC’s David Loyn says that Safi was known for going out in public without her head covered, in defiance of the “conservative interpretation of Islam practised by many in Afghanistan.”
Safi is the second provincial head of women’s affairs to be targeted and assassinated since the posts were created ten years ago for each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Safia Ama Jan, the provincial head of women’s affairs in Kandahar, was shot dead by members of the Taliban in 2006.
Just last week, Reuters acquired a video showing a 22-year-old Afghan woman, identified as Najiba, being executed with gunshots to her head while a crowd of men watched in Parwan province. A manhunt is reportedly underway to find the alleged Taliban members involved.
While Afghan women have won back basic rights to education, voting and employment since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, many have feared that these will be eliminated as the Afghan government conducts peace talks with the Taliban and the presence of Western troops lessens, to end in 2014. Reuters also says that there are “concerns on the ground and at rights groups that Afghan women are being left out of the equation” in Afghanistan, in the face of “donor fatigue and general war weariness.”
Women also fear that President Hamid Karzai’s goverment has no real commitment to women’s rights.
The violent killing of Hanifa Safi is a terrible reminder of the dangers of everyday life for women in Afghanistan. It is also a call to the world not to walk away from helping Afghan women keep the basic rights they have fought too hard to lose.
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