Safia Amajan the chief of the Woman’s Affairs department in Kandahar, had devoted the last five years of her life to improving women’s rights and opportunities for education and vocational training. Yesterday she was gunned down outside her home.
Ms Amajan had taken over the post of women's welfare officer soon after the fall of the Taliban. With the return of the Taliban, aid workers were intimidated into leaving the region but Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee. Ms Amajan had asked for, and been refused, a protective vehicle, or bodyguards, despite repeated death threats. She was in a taxi when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire. A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, declared that Ms Amajan had been "executed". He said: "We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."
Ms Amajan's funeral yesterday was attended by the provincial governor and hundreds of mourners, including tribal elders. In Kabul, President Karzai said: "The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to kill those people who are working for the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan. The enemies of Afghanistan must understand that we have millions of people like Amajan." Fariba Ahmedi, a female member of parliament, who attended the burial, said: "Those enemies who have killed her should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way.”
Human rights groups point out, that the battle for women's rights is in serious danger of being lost. There are now entire provinces where there is no girls' education; of the 300 schools shut or burnt down, the majority were for girls. The death rate at childbirth is the second highest in the world, and the number of women who have committed suicide, mainly through self-immolation, has risen by 30 per cent in two years.