Monday, July 8, 2013

Lieutenant Islam Bibi was shot dead: Increasing threats for Women officials in Afghanistan

Living conditions of women in Afghanistan is not an area for rest of the world to proud of. Harshly enforced discriminatory gender specific customs, gun culture etc are keeping women out of job, out of education system, out of government services, out of modern healthcare systems etc. Of course insurgency is affecting men as well, but in the case of women it’s much more brutal. They have to live in a constant state of fear...

It’s not that Afghan women are not doing anything on their own to alter the status quo. When they got an opportunity to pursue education or government services, many came forward to accept the challenge.

Lieutenant Islam Bibi is one such person. Prior to the downfall of Taliban, this 37 year old, mother of three, was an Afghan refugee in Iran. In 2001 with a lot of optimism she came back to her mother land. Around nine years ago she joined Afghan Police force. Over time she moved up through the ladders and reached the position of Lieutenant – thus became the most senior female official in Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Thursday while going to work, assailants shot her. Bibi later died in a hospital bed. Her son, who was also travelling in the same vehicle, also suffered injuries.

Her way was not covered with rose petals. In insurgent hit Helmand provice, she faced opposition not only from outside but from the family as well. Bibi told Sunday Telegraph that, “My brother, father and sisters were all against me. In fact my brother tried to kill me three times,”

Living in Afghanistan is perilous; if you are women then extent of risk is very high. Over and above 1,00,000 strong NATO forces are winding down their operations in next year. Will Afghanistan lose even that minute progress they made in social status of women? Will the new administration, receiving less support from NATO (after winding down) be able to empower women?

There are some positive steps. Like the passage of legislations like "Elimination of Violence Against Women." But laws as such don’t have much significance, unless they are enforced well by a determined executive with backing from Police, Judiciary and Civil society. Will they will be able to do this? More than that, whether they would like to this? I have doubts.

Bibi is not the only women official gunned down by anti social elements. According to SCMP report, "...killing of female police Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar, in neighbouring province Kandahar in 2008... deaths of two successive women’s affairs directors in Laghman province within months last year." In addition to that vast number of silent victims across the nation...

Assailants were finally able to silence the voice of Bibi. Now, it is the obligation of Afghans especially women to live with that spirit. As NATO soldiers are already started packing up for their journey back to home, they should not expect much from outside world. For their own life, for the sake of coming generations, for the sake of humanity, it is the duty of Afghan women to fight hard for their rights, for their rightful status in society, politics, economy etc. Rest of the world may not be able to join you on ground but our wishes will be with you.



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