Afghan police deny that shooting of female MP was political

A burqa-clad Afghan pedestrian walks down an alley in the old part of Herat on April 16, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/Aref Karimi)

KABUL: The Afghan government Wednesday claimed the shooting of a female MP was the result of an undetermined personal dispute with a police officer, playing down claims by the victim’s sister that it was a political attack.

Maryam Koofi was recovering in a Kabul hospital from after being shot twice in the leg Tuesday night as she left her office. Her bodyguard was more seriously wounded, with shots to his head and leg.

It was the second attack in a single day on a high-profile figure in the capital. Afghanistan’s deputy public works minister was abducted on his way to work Tuesday morning.

Koofi is a minister from the northern province of Takhar. Her sister, Fawzia Koofi, is also a member of parliament and is a well-known women’s rights activist.

Fawzia Koofi said her sister told her she was getting into her car after dark when an unseen attacker fired. She said she was convinced the shooting was an act of political intimidation by those who oppose the rights granted to women since the fall of the hard-line Islamist Taliban government.

“By attacking a woman politician, they actually create a more terrorizing environment for women,” said Fawzia Koofi, who herself survived a shooting attack on her car in 2010.

“I don’t know who was behind this attack, but I know that it was political,” she added.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, however, identified Koofi’s attacker as a police officer. A ministry statement said the two were in a “dispute” and that the policeman, who was not named, was under investigation “to determine the cause of this dispute.”

Fawzia Koofi said her sister had no personal disputes and saw no police in the area when the shooting began.

The attack comes as many women’s rights activists worry that the departure of most foreign troops at the end of this year could jeopardize the gains they have made since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban.

For five years, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam that banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving their homes without a male relative. In public, all women were forced to wear a burqa.

Women’s freedoms have expanded in recent years and parliament now has 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women. Still, Afghanistan retains a deeply traditional culture, especially in rural areas, and Taliban insurgents as well as some religious conservative politicians oppose a greater role for women in public life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 17, 2014, on page 10.




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