Southern Afghanistan’s top policewoman has died after being shot in an ambush, months after her predecessor was murdered.
Her death, one of the latest in a string of attacks on prominent Afghan women, could make it even harder to recruit female officers in a deeply conservative nation where just one per cent of the police are women.
Sub-Inspector Negar, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was buying grass for her lambs outside her home in Helmand province yesterday when two gunmen rode up on a motorbike and fired at her.
Ms Negar’s funeral was attended by colleagues and family members, many vowing revenge on the attackers.
“They have given us warning that one of us will be killed every three months and we will be killed one by one,” fellow policewoman Malalai said.
The Taliban are believed to be behind many of the recent assaults on Afghan women.
Ms Negar was the top policewoman in Helmand, and worked in its criminal investigation department in Lashkar Gah city. She had taken over the duties of Islam Bibi, a police officer shot dead in July by unknown gunmen. Ms Bibi said her own relatives had threatened her for having the job.
Officials have given different ages for Ms Negar, including 35 and 38, and varying accounts of her work history. But her son-in-law, Faizullah Khan, said she was 41 and had two children, a son and a daughter, and that she worked for the police in the early 1990s before the Taliban movement took over the country and banned women from jobs.
Her son, police officer Hamid Khan, vowed to find her killers. “I will serve my elders and people, my sisters and my brothers till the last drop of blood in my body. They should not believe that it is the end,” he said.
Ms Negar’s family has had several police officers, including her son, and a brother and her relatives had not objected to her work, the son-in-law said. However, she had been getting phone threats from people claiming to be with the Taliban, who have been waging an insurgency since being topped in 2001.
Female police officers seem to be a favorite target and several have been threatened or killed in the past few years.
Oxfam says efforts to recruit more women into Afghanistan's police force have met with limited success. In 2005, the national police force employed just 180 women out of 53,400 personnel. By July 2013, that had risen to 1,551 out of 157,000.
The female officers, especially in the deeply conservative southern provinces, face numerous challenges, including disapproval from their own families. Many also face sexual harassment and assault by male colleagues. And some are given menial tasks such as serving tea.