Afghan Woman Shot And Blinded For Getting A Job

On 10 November, it was reported by Reuters that a young woman was attacked as she left her job at a police station in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni Province. 33-year-old Khatera, who goes by only one name, was shot at and stabbed in the eyes with a knife.

“I asked the doctors, why can’t I see anything? They told me that my eyes are still bandaged because of the wounds. But at that moment, I knew my eyes had been taken from me,” she said.

Though the Taliban deny being behind the attack, Khatera and the local authorities believe that they were involved. It is alleged that the assailants were tipped-off by her father, who was so strongly opposed to her working outside the home that he provided the group with a copy of her ID card and called her on the day of the attack to confirm her location.

For Khatera, the brutal experience cost her more than her eyesight. It also cost her a childhood dream that she had worked so hard to achieve – an independent career. She joined the Ghazni police force as an officer in its crime division just months ago.

Human rights activists believe that this attack represents a growing trend of intense and often violent backlash against women getting jobs, particularly in public roles. Khatera’s role as a police officer may have further angered the Taliban. Activists suggest that the escalation in gender-based violence is a culmination of both conservative societal norms and an emboldened Taliban regaining influence in the country. Intra-Afghan talks are currently being held in Doha, Qatar.

The Taliban claim that as they engage in peace negotiations, they intend to respect women’s rights under Sharia law but many Afghan women and human rights activists say they have doubts. In September this year, President Ashraf Ghani signed into law an amendment that allows mothers’ names to be added to identity cards. The insurgent group was against this reform – one of the first solid standpoints they have revealed on their views regarding women’s rights as peace talks go on.

As Khatera heals from this attack, she still has hope that a doctor overseas may somehow partially restore her eyesight. “If it is possible, I get back my eyesight, I will resume my job and serve in the police again,” she told Reuters, adding in part she needed an income to avoid poverty. “But the main reason is my passion to do a job outside the home.”

In her comments regarding the rise in violence against women, Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan campaigner, has said: “Though the situation for Afghan women in public roles has always been perilous, the recent spike in violence across the country has made matters even worse. The great strides made on women’s rights in Afghanistan over more than a decade must not become a casualty of any peace deal with the Taliban.”

In recent months, several high-profile women have also faced assassination attempts, including Saba Sahar, one of Afghanistan’s first female directors, and Fawzia Koofi, a politician who has been part of the government’s negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. Both women survived the attacks.

Peace talks with the Taliban have raised concerns about the potential consequences of the group’s return to any degree of national power, particularly for women and minorities. Some Afghan women have voiced fears that a peace deal with the Taliban may result in a revival of the regime’s old rules from the 1990s. Other Afghan women have argued that the country desperately needs peace and that the only way to achieve this is through negotiating with the Taliban. The views of Afghan women regarding the potential gains from peace processes cover a broad spectrum of opinion. What is certain, is that any outcome of a peace negotiation must give a voice to Afghan women and enable them to have hope, to live their purpose and to be free to pursue their dreams.


Anita Mureithi