Four women, including at least one rights activist, have been killed in Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, well more than two months after the Taliban took over the war-ravaged country.
The Taliban government’s interior ministry spokesman, Qari Sayed Khosti, said on Saturday the bodies of the four women were found at a house and local sources had identified at least one of the victims as a rights activist.
He added that two suspects had already been arrested over the killings. “The arrested people have admitted in initial interrogation that the women were invited to the house by them. Further investigations are under way and the case has been referred to court,” Khosti added. He did not identify the ill-fated women, but AFP, citing unnamed sources in the city, reported that one of the dead was Frozan Safi, a women’s rights activist and a university lecturer.
The sources further said they had heard the women received a call they thought was an invitation to join an evacuation flight and were then picked up by a vehicle, only to be found dead later.
One of the sources said three weeks earlier she had herself received a call from someone pretending to offer assistance in her efforts to flee Afghanistan and seek asylum abroad. “He knew all information about me, asked me to send my documents, wanted me to fill a questionnaire, pretending to be an official of my office in charge of giving info to the US for my evacuation,” she further said, adding that she blocked the caller after becoming suspicious. But she has been living in fear ever since, she said.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, took power again on August 15 as the United States was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal. The group announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7.
Under their last period of rule, the Taliban had banned women from public life and since the group’s return to governance many rights activists have fled Afghanistan. Those who remained have held street protests in the capital Kabul and some other cities, demanding that their rights be respected and that girls be allowed to attend public high schools.
The Taliban have dispersed a number of protest rallies and the government in Kabul has threatened to detain any journalists covering unauthorized gatherings.
The US completed the chaotic withdrawal by the end of August, in what observers saw as a botched exit after a futile military adventure lasting 20 years. The US-led NATO alliance invaded the South Asian country in 2001 under the pretext of ‘war on terror,’ to decimate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. None of the goals were achieved despite massive investment.