Afghan Women's Activist Assassinated by Muslim Gunmen

By Noor Khan
Associated Press
September 26, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Sept. 25 - A teacher for more than three decades and an advocate for women's rights, Safia Ama Jan ran an underground school for girls during Taliban rule. On Monday, two men on a motorbike gunned her down as she left for work -- identifying their target despite her full burqa.

The assassination underscored the increasingly brazen attacks by militants on government officials and schools in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai, who was visiting Washington, condemned the killing as an act of radicalism.

"The enemies of Afghanistan must understand that we have millions of people like [Ama Jan] who will continue to serve this great nation," he said.

Ama Jan, a provincial director for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, was slain outside her home in the southern city of Kandahar, said Tawfiq ul-Ulhakim Parant, senior adviser to the women's ministry in Kabul. Mullah Sadullah, a regional Taliban commander, asserted responsibility for the killing.

"The enemy of Afghanistan killed her, but they should know it will not derail women from the path we are on," Fariba Ahmedi, a parliament member, said at Ama Jan's funeral in a packed Shiite Muslim mosque.

In a statement, Laura Bush expressed sympathy and said the killing showed "how the struggle to end terrorism is also a struggle to preserve the fundamental rights and dignity of women."

Ama Jan's death comes at a time of rising violence at the hands of Taliban fighters. This month, a suicide bomber assassinated a provincial governor, and militants killed 19 construction workers. Attacks on schools are also increasing. Militants last year burned down or attacked 146 schools, and this year have attacked 158 schools, an official said.

The school attacks appear motivated partly by Taliban opposition to education for girls, but they also seem to be part of a broader strategy to undermine Karzai's U.S.-backed government.

Bush applauded Ama Jan's education efforts. "By educating its women, Afghanistan will produce more inspiring leaders like Safia Ama Jan -- women willing to risk everything to see their country peaceful and free," she said.

Ama Jan, who was said to be in her sixties, was urged to quit her work by her family because of the growing danger, said her son, Naqibullah. "She said, 'It's my country, I won't quit my job. I want to do this work for our women, for our country,' " he said.

In Kandahar alone, Ama Jan had opened six schools where almost 1,000 women learned how to bake and sell their goods at market. She also taught them to use computers.

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