Female mayor in Afghanistan says she’s waiting for Taliban to ‘come ... and kill me’

‘I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family’

Celine Wadhera
Tuesday 17 August 2021 16:43 BST
Discrimination against women lingers in Afghanistan
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One of Afghanistan’s first female mayors has said that she is waiting for the Taliban to find her and kill her.

Zarifa Ghafari, the 27-year-old former mayor of Maidan Shar in Wardak province, told the i newspaper: “I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family”.

“I’m just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me.

“I can’t leave my family,” she said. “And anyway, where would I go?”

Just three weeks ago, she told the i newspaper that she had hope for the future of her country.

“Younger people are aware of what’s happening,” she said. “They have social media. They communicate. I think they will continue fighting for progress and our rights. I think there is a future for this country.”

In 2018 Ms Ghafari was appointed mayor of Maidan Shar by president Ashraf Ghani, making her Afghanistan’s youngest mayor and the first woman to hold office in the conservative city.

The i reported that the Taliban has frequently vowed to kill Ms Ghafari, adding that her father was gunned down on 15 November 2020, just 20 days after a third attempt on her life had been made.

As the Taliban continued to gain ground across Afghanistan, Ms Ghafari was given a job at the Defence Ministry in Kabul, where she was responsible for the welfare of soldiers and civilians injured in terrorist attacks; this role offered a relative degree of safety, compared with the public profile of her role as mayor in the central Wardak province.

On Sunday, after president Ghani had fled the country and the Taliban had seized control of Kabul, Zabihullah Mujahid, chief spokesperson for the Taliban said that the lives of women and opponents would be protected.

The Taliban have added that “amnesty” would be offered to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

“No one’s life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the Taliban said.

On Tuesday, the Taliban even urged women to engage in the new government, which is expected to emerge within days.

Enamullah Samangani, a member of Taliban’s cultural commission, said: “The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims. The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”

Mr Samangani added that women “should be in the government structure according to Shariah law”.

But many remain skeptical as reports of revenge killings and brutal tactics have already begun to emerge from areas seized by the militant group.

On Monday, Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai said: “We have seen gruesome images of Taliban’s mass executions of military personnel and targeted killing of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities.

“Kabul residents are reporting the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighbourhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list. There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city.”

Mr Isaczai urged the UN Security council to “use ever means at its disposal” to end all violence and respect human rights and international law.

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