On Monday, senior women’s rights advocate, Nadia Sediqqi, was shot dead on her way to work in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province by two unknown gunmen.
Sediqqi headed the Women Affairs Department in the Laghman province. Her murder is only the latest assassination targeting women’s rights activists in the country, further highlighting the serious dangers that Afghan female governmental workers are exposed to on a daily basis.
In fact, Sediqqi’s predecessor, Hanifa Safi, a leading advocate of fair treatment for women, was also murdered in July 2012 in a car bombing that killed her husband and injured 11 other people. Although Safi had repeatedly requested police protection, all her pleas had been ignored.
Many female Afghan government officials are forced to work without the protection of bodyguards, which leaves them exposed to attacks coming from religious extremists and other individuals and groups who oppose women's presence in the workforce. Afghani women pursuing careers often face opposition and often face ostracization or even worse consequences for interacting with men other than husbands or relatives.
In a report on Safi’s murder, Amnesty International stressed that several Afghan women in public roles had been assassinated over the past 10 years, while high-profile Afghan women and human rights defenders had been routinely attacked.
Sediqqi is the third provincial head of women's affairs to be killed after Safi and Safiye Amajan, former head of the Kandahar province women's department, who was shot dead 2006 by members of a presumably Taliban-linked armed group. According to Amnesty International, after such incidents occur, authorities fail to adequately investigate the case and punish the perpetrators.
In Sediqqi’s case, investigations have been launched in order to determine if her killing was politically motivated, but it remains to be seen if these investigations will be followed through and adequate measure will be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. Thus far, neither Taliban-led insurgents or al-Qaeda supporters have claimed responsibility for the advocate’s murder, which President Hamid Karzai has described to be of a terrorist nature.
While Karzai may have condemned the attack on Sediqqi, many activists blame an increase in violence against women in Afghanistan, on a waning interest in women’s rights on the part of his government, as a result of its intensified effort to strike a peace deal with the Taliban.
In fact, on December 17, two Taliban political delegates will participate in a meeting taking place in Paris with Afghan and non-Afghan politicians about Afghanistan’s future. Denying any peace talks’ possibility during the meeting, the Taliban emphasized that their delegates would express the Taliban’s position on how to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
As the government increasingly focuses on engaging with the Taliban, many activists fear that the basic rights in education, voting and employment that women won since the Taliban was removed from power in 2001 might be lost once more.
On Monday, another Taliban murder occurred, as the police chief in Nimruz province, Musal Rassouli, was killed in a car bombing, while last Thursday, a Taliban suicide bomber managed to wound his target, Assadullah Khalid, Afghanistan’s top intelligence officer.