The Taliban* seized power in Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the insurgent forces entered the capital. While the Taliban is expected to restore the sharia-based conservative regime that existed prior to the 2001 US invasion, the group has promised to leave certain freedoms for women in place.
Zarifa Ghafari, the first female mayor of the “conservative” Afghan city of Maidan Shar, has told the British outlet iNews that she is afraid the Taliban* will kill her and other prominent female officials after taking over Afghanistan.
“I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I’m just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me”, she said in the interview.
Ghafari added that she cannot leave her family and that she has nowhere to go even if she tried to escape the Taliban. The latter recently announced a comprehensive amnesty for officials in the former Kabul government, urging them to return to their duties – including women, who had been banned from jobs under the pre-2001 Taliban regime in the country. The insurgent group said women will be allowed to have jobs and education under the new regime.
First Female Mayor of ‘Conservative’ City
Just three weeks ago, Ghafari expressed confidence that despite the Taliban’s advance, Afghanistan could have a future, arguing that a younger population “will continue fighting for progress and our rights”.
While she was not the first female mayor in Afghanistan, Ghafari was the youngest person to hold this post in the country. She also became the first woman to be the mayor of the city of Maidan Shar in Wardak Province, not far from Kabul. This city is among the most conservative in the country, and Ghafari’s appointment by the country’s President Ashraf Ghani in 2018 did not go smoothly – on her first day a mob of angry men armed with sticks and rocks surrounded her office, forcing her to flee.
© AP Photo / Mariam Zuhaib
Several months later, after the resignation of the governor of Wardak Province, whom Ghafari accused of staging the mob attack, she returned to Maidan Shar and took up her mayoral responsibilities. Ghafari still had to commute from Kabul to her workplace for safety reasons and, after the Taliban launched its latest offensive, she was transferred to the Defence Ministry in Kabul, where she was tasked with maintaining the welfare of soldiers and civilians affected by terrorist attacks.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries