The assassination of Malali Kakar, Afghanistan’s most senior police officer, by the Taliban earlier today is a brutal reminder that, in the seven years since the “liberation” by invading US and British forces, Afghanistan has seen a steady erosion of womens’ rights. Yet it was the plight of Afghani women, recall, that galvanized support for invading that country post-9/11. Indeed, at the official end of the Afghan war Laura Bush was among those who declared that one of the most important achievements in overthrowing the Taliban was the emancipation of women.
Few were as emancipated as Kakar, a mother of six, who was shot in the head leaving her house in Kandahar on her way to work. Her son, injured in the ambush, remains in a coma. Kakar knew she was a marked woman, having received death threats for months. Other female activists have been murdered in recent years. One of Kakar’s closest friends, Safia Amajan, a prominent female-rights activist, was killed also on her way to work. Yet Kakar remained a fierce and courageous champion of women’s rights, heading up a unit that specializes in spousal abuse and other crimes against women which are on the rise in southern Afghanistan, as reported in a Marie Claire profile of Kakar last year.
Canadian photo-journalist Lana Slezic took this iconic photograph of Kakar a few years ago; it’s included in Forsaken, Selzic’s important, harrowing book published last year that documents the lives of Afghani women who need advocates like Kakar. After Amajan’s death, Kakar was interviewed by The Independent. With typical defiance, she spoke of the Taliban: “These are the kind of people we are having to fight,” she said. “They hate any thought of women having freedom. None of us can be safe from such hatred.”