A 29-year-old activist and economics teacher, Frozan Safi, has been shot and killed in northern Afghanistan in what appears to be the first known death of a women’s rights activist since the Taliban came to power nearly three months ago.
Frozan Safi’s body was identified in a morgue in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif after she disappeared on October 20. ‘We recognized her on her clothes. Bullets had ruined her face, “said Safi’s sister, Rita, who is a doctor.
“There were gunshot wounds everywhere, too many to count, on her head, heart, chest, kidneys and legs.” Her engagement ring and her bag had both been taken, Rita added.
On Thursday, Taliban security forces brought the bodies of two unidentified women who had been shot and killed to Balkh province hospital, said Meraj Faroqi, a doctor there. They had been found along with the bodies of two men in a house in Mazar-i-Sharif, said Zabihullah Noorani, the Taliban’s director of information and cultural affairs in Balkh province, who suggested they could have been victims of a “personal feud”. “. . Police are investigating the case, he said.
The deaths underscore the pervasive sense of fear in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where a wave of reprisal killings of people linked to the previous government has created an atmosphere of impunity and confusion.
Since mid-August, women have held regular, nationwide protests against the Taliban, demanding that their rights be restored and protected. Hardly a day goes by in Afghanistan without women’s rights shrinking further. Girls are de facto banned from high school, the new government consists exclusively of men, and women have been excluded from most of sports and work.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said Taliban rules prohibit most women from working as aid workers in the country, hastening a looming humanitarian catastrophe.
Activists say they are being chased by the Taliban, who have perfected ways to infiltrate and intimidate groups of women.
Towards the end of last month, Frozan received a call from an anonymous number telling her to gather evidence of her work as a rights activist and leave for a safe house.
This made sense to her: Frozan believed that her application for asylum in Germany was under way. She stuffed some documents, including her college diploma, into a bag, threw a black and white scarf over her head and left home, Rita said.
She was careful to point the finger at the Taliban. “We just do not know who killed her,” Rita said. The sisters’ father, Abdul Rahman Safi, 66, said Frozan’s body had been found in a pit not far from town and was registered by hospital workers as unknown.
Zahra, another protest organizer who spoke to the Guardian using only one name for security reasons, said she had been with Frozan at the recent protest in Mazar-i-Sharif against the Taliban regime.
“My WhatsApp has been hacked. I would not dare go on social media now,” Zahra said.
The extremists have led to a largely violent repression of dissent, beating women with electric relays and detaining and torturing journalists covering the nationwide protests of women demanding their rights restored and protected.
This story is published in collaboration with Rukhshana Media.
Zahra Joya contributed to the reporting