Taliban Gunmen Murder Leading Afghan Women's Rights Activist

Taliban gunmen murdered one of Afghanistan’s leading female rights activists yesterday, as she stood outside her home. In the latest blow against women’s rights, two men on a motorbike shot Sitara Achakzai in the southern city of Kandahar.


Officials said the attack happened in broad daylight. The Taliban have claimed responsibility. Friends said Mrs Achakzai was returning from a provincial council meeting; her assassins were lying in wait nearby.

“This cold-blooded assassination puts in question the direction that Afghanistan is heading,” warned Wenny Kusuma, the director of the United Nations Development fund for Women in Afghanistan. “There is no respect for the rule of law."

Earlier this year Mrs. Achakzai was instrumental in organizing a nationwide sit-in of more than 11,000 women, in seven provinces. The women ‘prayed for peace’ to mark International Women’s Day.

Her death has sent shockwaves through Afghanistan’s human rights community. It comes after Mrs. Achakzai suffered shrapnel wounds to her face in a Taliban suicide attack on Kandahar’s provincial council building that left 13 dead a fortnight ago.

Yesterday was the first time she had returned there since. A friend said she went to say farewell: frightened for her safety she was to leave Afghanistan on May 1.

“She had a ticket to leave,” said a close friend and colleague in Kandahar, who asked not to be named. “She was going to take a few months to see what happened, to see whether things get better or worse.”

Mrs. Achakzai was living in Germany until 2004, but decided to come back and serve Afghanistan with her husband, who taught chemistry in Kandahar University, the friend said.

President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali is the head of the council. The Taliban have offered 200,000 Pakistani rupees, around £1,700, to anyone who murders a councillor.

The murder comes just days after President Hamid Karzai was forced to order a review of new legislation which the UN said legalized rape. Fury over the law, which President Barack Obama called “abhorrent,” highlighted the desperate state of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

In September last year, Afghanistan’s most prominent female police officer, Lt-Col Malalai Kakar, was shot in a similar attack in Kandahar. The Taliban also claimed responsibility.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.