Female politician's murder a 'blow' to Afghan society
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, April 13, 2009 10:20PM EDT
The brutal murder of a female member of Kandahar's Provincial Council on Sunday afternoon is "a big blow" to Afghan society, says the council's chair.
Sitara Achakzai died when four gunmen on motorcycles ambushed her outside her home in Kandahar city before driving away.
The Taliban quickly released a statement claiming responsibility for the killing.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, chair of Kandahar's provincial council and brother to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Achakzai's murder will likely deter women from seeking elected office or taking other government jobs.
"That will definitely affect the family. No one will take a risk to send their daughters and their mothers and their wives to become a member of parliament," Karzai said.
"So definitely, it's a big blow for the Afghan society," he added.
In addition to her role on the council, Achakzai was a well-known women's rights activist who was a vocal proponent of women working outside the home.
While she spent the years of Taliban rule living in Germany and has travelled to Canada to visit family in the Toronto area, Achakzai returned to Afghanistan to help with reconstruction, as well as to encourage women to fight for equal rights.
She had recently organized marches across the country for International Women's Day.
Relatives in Toronto were mourning the activist's death on Monday, and told CTV News about her bravery, courage, and love of life.
"I'm so proud of her," said her niece, Ghatool Maiwand. "She lost her life fighting for freedom, fighting for women's rights."
Another niece, Maryam Maiwand, said Achakzai was "always laughing. Every room she walked into she was always smiling and joking around and dancing."
Lauryn Oates of the organization Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan said the fact that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder indicates Achakzai was likely killed because of her beliefs about women's rights.
"(In the statement) they used the words that she was involved in 'bad things' without elaborating on what exactly that meant," Oates said Monday on CTV's Canada AM. "I think we can assume it just meant that she was a woman who worked outside her home and she was involved in politics with the government that they are opposing. So she was a worthy target for that reason."
According to Oates, Achakzai had recently been receiving death threats and had plans to leave the country for an extended period of time on May 1. Conflicting reports suggested she was going to either Germany or Canada.
Achakzai's death comes at a time when the world's attention is once against focused on Afghanistan over the plight of women in that country.
The so-called Shia Family Law, which legalizes rape within marriage and confines women to the home unless they have a male escort, was passed by Afghanistan's national assembly but has not yet been enacted.
News of the law sparked outrage among Western nations, including Canada, which forced President Karzai to issue a statement saying that he has ordered a review of the legislation.
With a report by CTV's Lisa LaFlamme in Toronto