Amid increasing attacks by Taliban militants, Safia Ama Jan, director of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kandahar, was shot and killed this morning. A local Taliban commander claimed responsibility for the murder, according to the Associated Press, and it’s thought that Ama Jan was killed in reprisal for her successful attempts at educating women.
Her death rattled an international community hyperaware of the tenuous situation in Afghanistan, and her funeral today drew hundreds of mourners. A spokesperson for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the organization “is appalled at the senseless murder of a woman who was simply working to ensure that all Afghan women play a full and equal part in the future of Afghanistan.”
Still, some remain confident that escalating attacks will fail to thwart Afghanistan’s progress. President Hamid Karzai said, “The enemies of Afghanistan must understand that we have millions of people like (Ama Jan) who will continue to serve this great nation.” Similarly, Fariba Ahmedi, a member of Parliament, told the AP, “The enemy of Afghanistan killed her, but they should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way.”
Yet Taliban militants seem increasingly intent on derailing strides toward women’s empowerment. Attacks on schools have increased recently, presumably in protest of educating girls. Ama Jan was a fearless champion of women’s education; her son said she ran an underground school for girls out of her home during the Taliban’s oppressive rule. Through her six vocational schools, Ama Jan also managed to teach nearly 1,000 Afghan women how to use computers and bake and sell goods, according to the AP.
Ultimately, she was more concerned with her work than her own safety. Ama Jan’s son told the AP that she would say, “It’s my country, I won’t quit my job. I want to do this work for our women, for our country. I want women to be able to work just like men.”