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December 14 2012

Head of Women's Affairs in Afghanistan Province Killed by Gunman

Emily Wismer

Afghan women fought hard to gain rights American women take for granted, but now they appear to be losing them. High-profile women are actually in danger of losing their lives.

Nadia Sediqqi, the acting head of Afghanistan’s women’s affairs department in Laghman province, was shot and killed by a gunman Monday. According to Reuters, Sediqqi’s predecessor, Hanifa Safi, was killed five months ago by a roadside bomb attributed to the Taliban.

Several other high profile women government officials have been murdered in recent months, and the Afghani government in Kabul has come under scrutiny for its failures to protect and promote women in its government, despite spouting commitments to women’s rights.

Reuters reports:

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and employment since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, but fears are mounting that such freedoms could be traded away as Kabul seeks peace talks with the group. ...

Women who pursue careers in ultra-conservative Afghanistan often face opposition in a society where often they are ostracised, or worse, for mixing with men other than husbands or relatives.

Reuters reports that Safi’s son claims authorities ignored several requests for protection.

Al Jazeera explains that women officials and activists are granted fewer resources than their male counterparts. In some cases, this means the difference between life and death:

…the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 4,010 cases of violence against women in the seven months between March and October this year, nearly twice as many as in the previous 12 months…

Citing the fact that Siddiqi, the highest-ranking female official in the province, was travelling in a motorised rickshaw at the time of the attack, Frogh [of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security] said: "We are actually going backwards.”

"Even with billions in foreign aid coming into Afghanistan there was no car for this woman. Had she been a commander she would have had a full security detail."

The discriminatory negligence Seddiqi fell victim to can greatly impact the broader women’s rights movement in Afghanistan. According to Al Jazeera:

The lack of government protection for female officials was also highlighted in a report released by the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) published on the day of Siddiqi's death.

The report, "Honour martyred women leaders, hold assassinator accountable", said that although the National Directorate of Security, the nation's spy agency, had foiled "numerous plots" to assassinate male officials, women often lack the "discretionary security arrangements" - armoured vehicles, blast-resistant offices, and intelligence alerts - afforded to their male counterparts.

Afghani women advocating for basic rights, like education, employment rights, and public safety have received excessive violence. The Taliban and unidentified male gunmen use violence to silence demands for freedom and liberty, yet the stories and movements Siddiqi and her counterparts fight for live on.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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