KABUL, Afghanistan -- Fueling fears over the growing dangers faced by Afghan women, a bomb attached to the car belonging to a provincial women’s affairs chief killed her and seriously injured her husband on Friday, Afghan officials said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assassination of Hanifa Safi, who headed the department of women’s affairs in Laghman province, east of Kabul. But a spokesman for the provincial government, Sarhadi Zewak, blamed “enemies of the people” -- the term Afghan officials customarily use to describe the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
The killing comes against a backdrop of high-profile attacks against women in recent months, including the public execution of a woman in a province only an hour’s drive from Kabul, which was captured on video.
With the Western combat role in Afghanistan set to end in 2014, many women here are worried about a sharp erosion of gains made in the 11 years since the toppling of the Taliban movement. Some women’s groups have said that billions of dollars in development aid earmarked for Afghanistan at an international conference in Tokyo earlier this month should have been more tightly conditioned on the protection of women’s rights.
Many women fear that the government of President Hamid Karzai, which desperately wants to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, would be willing to trade away their hard-won freedoms in order to come to an accord with the fundamentalist Islamist movement.
Ministers serving with the central government in Kabul travel with substantial security, but many provincial officials move about virtually unguarded, leaving them vulnerable to attack. The bomb attached to Safi’s car exploded as the couple was driving in a busy area of the provincial capital, Mehtarlam, Zewak said, and 10 bystanders were injured in the powerful blast.
The Taliban and other insurgents make frequent threats against women in public life, and sometimes carry them out. Safi’s assassination came six years after another provincial women’s affairs chief, Safia Amajan, who held the post in volatile Kandahar province, was gunned down outside her home. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that killing.
-- Laura King. Special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi contributed.
Photo: Men wounded in the bomb blast that killed Hanifa Safi are treated at a hospital in Laghman, Afghanistan. Credit: Abdul Mueed / European Pressphoto Agency