A prominent women’s rights advocate in Afghanistan was killed by unknown assailants Monday, officials said:
Two assailants riding a motorbike gunned down Najia Seddiqi as she was heading to her office in eastern Laghman province, said Helai Nekzad, the chief of information at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul. Seddiqi was the head of women’s affairs for Laghman province. Her predecessor in that post was killed five months ago when explosives hidden in her car were detonated.
“We have launched an investigation to find out whether Najia Seddiqi’s killing was politically motivated,” Nekzad said.
President Hamid Karzai described the assassination as “terroristic,” a term he often uses to describe attacks by Taliban-led insurgents or al-Qaida militants.
The attack appears to be the latest in a series of attacks on government officials and civil society activists by the Taliban, and highlights the serious threat to Afghanistan’s fragile gains in rights and freedom following the forthcoming withdrawal of international security forces.
A former U.S. envoy to Kabul is trying to ensure a smooth transition when President Hamid Karzai leaves office in 2014.
Afghan politicians “need to make sure that there is a constitutional, democratic and orderly change of government,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
“The picture looks very bleak for international oversight and attention to human rights in the region,” said Jacqueline Hale, a Central Asia specialist at the Open Society Foundations, a democracy assistance group.