Sunday, October 05, 2008

Muslim world: For women it's a special place in hell...

Safia Amajan.

Don't believe me?

"Three years ago, Kim Sengupta interviewed five women who wanted to build a new Afghanistan. Today, three are dead and a fourth has fled..."

Here is just one of their stories.

"Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, is the scene of particular brutality towards women. "It is much worse down there than it is for us here [in Kabul], you must go down there," Shaima had said previously. One woman who worked tirelessly for women in Kandahar was Safia Amajan, 65, who stayed behind during the dark days of Taliban rule to teach girls in lessons held in secret. After the US-led invasion of 2001, she volunteered to work for the new government with great success, opening schools and workshops where at least 1,000 women learned to make and sell their goods at the market.

Amajan, or "dear aunt" as the girls she taught called her, survived the Taliban by learning the Koran by heart. But she was always independent, refusing a marriage arranged by her father and then eventually choosing her own husband, an educated and wholly supportive colonel in the army.

The couple lived on the outskirts of Kandahar, where she described, without any drama, the struggle of life for women under the Taliban. "Those of us who are around now are very lucky," she said. "There were others, very brave, who also tried to make things better for young girls through education and teaching them skills. They were caught and they suffered."

Amajan was killed in September 2006. Her husband had walked her to the main road where she was to be picked up by a taxi to be taken to work. Two young men approached on a motorcycle and one of them opened fire with a Kalashnikov. A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, announced that she had been "executed" for defying orders to stop working.

I met the two men arrested for her murder last year at the Sarposa prison in Kandahar. They were in their early 20s, dishevelled and craven, repeatedly claiming that they were in danger from their own side as well as the authorities. They had killed Safia, they said, in return for $5,000 offered by a mullah in Pakistan. The men were caught when the mullah wanted proof that they had carried out their task and they attempted, by night, to dig up the body for a lock of hair."

Read it all. It will break your heart. And make you want to throw something right at Mr. Taliban - say a couple of AG 114 Hellfire missiles?