(Washington, D.C.) — The assassination of a prominent female official is a major setback to the fragile advances in human rights in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said as it urged the government to bring those responsible to justice.
Hanifa Safi, director of the Ministry of Women Affairs in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan, was targeted in Mehtarlam city when a magnetic bomb was placed on the vehicle in which she, her daughter and husband were travelling. Safi and her husband were killed, and 11 people injured including her son, daughter and the driver.
The killing of Safi comes shortly after video footage surfaced of a young Afghan woman, named in media reports as 22-year old Najiba, being shot dead on “charges” of adultery, reportedly by a Taliban insurgent. Laghman provincial authorities have accused the Talban of today’s attack, but so far no-one has accepted responsibility.
“Hanifa Safi was clearly a target of individuals or groups determined to undermine the fragile gains made for women’s rights in Afghanistan,” said Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan researcher. “This is not the first such incident – a number of Afghan women in public roles have been assassinated over the past 10 years. The targeting and killing of civilians is an appalling act.”
Hanifa Safi is the second provincial head of women's affairs to be killed since Safiye Amajan, former head of the Kandahar province women's department, was shot dead outside her home in 2006 by members of an armed group thought to be linked to the Taliban. High-profile Afghan women and human rights defenders are routinely attacked.
“The typical pattern which follows such incidents is failure by the authorities to adequately investigate the case and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Mosadiq.
In the Tokyo International Donors Conference for Afghanistan on July 8, the Afghan government committed to build a stable state based on the “rule of law, effective and independent judiciary and good governance.”
“Such commitments will remain meaningless if those responsible for violence against women in Afghanistan are able to escape justice,” said Mosadiq. “The Afghan government – with international support – must fully implement the National Action Plan for the Women and the 2009 law on Elimination of Violence against Women.”
In May this year, Lal Bibi, a young girl from Kunduz province, revealed that she had been gang raped by a local police commander and his men.
In the last ten years, the Afghan government has largely failed to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses, particularly against women – including those in public life – to justice. In the cases of Lal Bibi, Najiba and Safiye Amajan and others, the perpetrators have yet to be arrested and prosecuted.
“The Afghan government must protect all Afghan people, including women and girls, who are targeted for their human rights work,” said Mosadiq.
Amnesty International said that as the Afghan government pursues a political settlement with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, the Afghan government and its allies must ensure that human rights, including women’s rights, are not compromised or traded away in expedient deals.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.