Hanifa Safi, a provincial head of women’s affairs, was assassinated on Friday in Afghanistan. Safi was driving with her husband and daughter when a car bomb exploded, killing Safi and leaving her husband in a coma. Safi was the department head for women’s affairs in the Laghman province, and was a prominent advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan. No group has taken responsibility, but a government official attributed the attack to “enemies of the people.” As the Los Angeles Times reports, the phrase “enemies of the people” is often used to describe the Taliban or other insurgent groups.
The assassination occurred in the midst of a rise in violence against women in Afghanistan. Last week a woman was executed publicly because of an accusation of adultery. The murder was carried out by a known member of the Taliban and captured on video. Afghan schoolgirls have also been the targets of violence; three attacks since April have threatened the lives and education of Afghan girls. The Taliban is thought to be the perpetrator of these attacks as well.
The rise in violence has sparked concerns from Afghan women and advocacy groups. Afghan women have been regaining basic rights since the Taliban lost power in 2006, but fear that these rights will be lost as the threat of violence and the Taliban rises
Safi is the second provincial head of women’s affairs to be assassinated. In 2006, Safia Amajan, the provincial director of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kandahar, was killed by gunmen outside of her home. There is speculation that she was killed in retaliation for her outspoken support of women’s rights and her work opening schools for women in Afghanistan. Amajan had unsuccessfully requested bodyguards and secure transportation from the Afghan government; at the time of the attack, she was getting into a taxi to go to work.
Media Resources: BBC 7/13/12; Reuters 7/13/12; RT News 7/13/12; Los Angeles Times 7/13/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/24/12, 7/25/06