'Kill list' targets Afghan women who speak up for human rights

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Afghanistan,Ashe Schow,War on Women,Gender Issues,Human Rights

Afghan women in positions of power who dare speak up for human rights are targeted by the Taliban as part of a “kill list,” according to Women's E-News writer Sahana Dharmapuri.

Since 2006, at least 10 women have been killed who were named on the list, some of them politicians and some of them policewomen.

Safia Ama Jan, director of women's affairs for the Afghan government, was shot in the head four times in September 2006 as she left for work.

Lt. Col. Malalai Kakar, a policewoman who focused on crimes against women, was shot in September 2008 as she was leaving her home for work.

Sitara Achakzai, another government official, was gunned down in May 2011 as she was getting out of her car.

Hanifa Safi, a prominent Afghan politician who spoke up for women's rights, was killed with a car bomb in July 2012.

Najia Sediqi, the acting head of women's affairs in Afghanistan's Laghman Providence, was shot as she was getting into a rickshaw to go to work in December 2012. Sediqi had been promoted to replace Safi, who had died five months earlier.

In each instance, the Taliban was either suspected or claimed credit for the attack.

But not every attack was successful. Last August, Afghan senator Roh Gul Khairzad was critically injured in an ambush. Her daughter and bodyguard did not survive.

Malalai Kakar was murdered in 2008. (Photo: Stefania Zamparelli, from Used under a Creative Commons license.)
Female politicians in Afghanistan do not have access to the same security male politicians have, according to Dharmapuri, which makes them vulnerable to Taliban attacks.

“We haven't been paying attention to these women and this is a strategic mistake,” Dharmapuri said. “We have to face the facts: obliterating the right to free speech and freedom from fear by killing off the frontline of human rights is a primary military objective of violent extremist groups. Women who work as journalists, human rights defenders, police, teachers and doctors are targeted exactly because they are on the frontline of this fight.”

Afghanistan is still struggling with women’s rights issues, but without outside help, women in the country will continue to struggle.

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