Attacks on Women in Afghanistan Inhibit Campaign

A police commander in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province recently reported that Taliban fighters kidnapped Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a female parliamentarian, and her three daughters as they traveled by car through the province. This kidnapping marks the latest in a series of highly publicized, violent attacks against women in the country.

Violent and frequently deadly attacks on women in Afghanistan working for state institutions have increased in recent months, raising concerns that U.S. efforts to promote women’s rights are failing. Human rights activists and diplomats alike worry that Afghan women will continue to suffer, especially as the United States plans to withdraw in 2014.

While Kakar’s three daughters were released, her kidnappers demanded that four Taliban prisoners be released before they would let her go.

A member of the lower house, Kakar was the second parliamentarian to be attacked in the province of Ghazni in less than one week. Though her husband insisted the attack had never taken place, the Kakar tribe’s elder Samad Khan admitted that she had been taken and said the tribe was attempting to reach an agreement with the Taliban.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, reported that he did not know who carried out the kidnapping but that the group is currently investigating it.

During the Taliban’s reign from 1996 to 2001, women were required to wear the burqa, which concealed them completely. They were also restricted from attending school and were prohibited from leaving the house without a male companion.

The western-supported government of President Hamid Karzai has restored women’s right to work and schooling, but these reforms have been met with much resistance. Women who survive Taliban attacks usually flee the country, which is classified as “one of the worst places in the world to be born female,” according to Reuters.

Muzhgan Masoomi, a former government worker who was stabbed 14 times in an attack last year, said she had to leave Afghanistan in order receive treatment for her wounds and proper protection from the Taliban. Though the attack occurred more than a year ago, Masoomi received no assistance from media or humanitarian organizations.

Last week a female senator named Rooh Gul was shot along with her husband and eight-year old daughter. Gul and her husband survived the attack, but their daughter died along with the driver of their car.

In July, Lieutenant Islam Bibi, the highest-ranking policewoman in the southern province of Helmand, was shot to death on her way to work in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Bibi herself reported frequent death threats from people inside and outside her family. These high profile attacks of senior female government officials are making headlines, yet honor killings by conservative relatives have occurred for years in Afghanistan.

Human rights groups remain concerned that rules instituted by the Taliban have not yet been defeated in certain areas of the country. Clerics in a region of the Baghlan province banned women from leaving the house without a male chaperone in June and closed all beauty parlors in the area.

According to NBC, Afghanistan’s parliament also voted to strike down a statute requiring females to make up a quarter of all provincial elected officials. Human Rights Watch calls these recent attacks along with parliament’s recent vote “a broad-based attack on women’s rights,” calling for the international community to stand up for Afghan women.

Katie Bandera

Sources: The Star, NBC
Photo: Indian Express