An atmosphere of fear and intimidation

Shukria Barakzai seemed (cautiously) optimistic in 2005.

2002 was a splendid year for Afghan women, a year begun with the formation of the interim administration…As the country becomes more pacified, we receive more and more requests for Women’s Mirror throughout Afghanistan. Three years later, our goals, commitments, and principles remain largely the same: the development of Afghan women.

The BBC talked to her last June.

For the past three months, Afghan female MP Shukria Barakzai has been receiving a letter saying she may be targeted by a suicide bomber in the next six months. The cryptic government letter contains an intelligence warning that Ms Barakzai’s life is under threat and she should be careful. She is one of six MPs getting such a letter these days. “That is all that the government does – send a letter by mail once every month saying my life is under threat. There isn’t talk of even providing security.”…Barakzai says she is being targeted by “various elements” because of her speeches against the country’s warlords, her support for women’s rights and for her criticisms of Pakistan. “I am going crazy. My friends are telling me to leave the country.”…When you consider that two women journalists have been killed recently in and around Kabul, you realise that even women of influence and power in Afghanistan live and work in fear under threats from warlords, the Taleban and other insurgent groups. Six years after the departure of the repressive Taleban this is the paradox of women in Afghanistan. They now have a say and a position under the country’s constitution. But they have to work in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

With journalists getting the death penalty merely for downloading material about the role of women in Islamic societies – yes, I would call that an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

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