Indian author Sushmita Banerjee shot dead by Taliban in Afghanistan

published on September 5, 2013
CAIRO: Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, who wrote a memoir about her escape from the Taliban, has been shot dead in Afghanistan by terrorists according to Afghan authorities.

Sushmita Banerjee, who was married to an Afghan businessman, was killed outside her home in Paktika province.

Indian officials who are waiting for the Afghan government to formally announce the author’s killing confirmed that Indian author Sushmita Banerjee was shot dead at 11pm on Wednesday night. Her family performed her last rights on Thursday morning. Banerjee had just returned to Afghanistan after celebrating Eid in India.

Banerjee’s memoir, ‘A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife’, recounted her life in Afghanistan with her husband and her escape from the Taliban in 1995. The movie ‘Escape from Taliban’ which was released in 2003 was based on her book.

The 49-year-old author had recently moved back to Afghanistan to live with her husband.

A senior police official told news reporters that the Indian author, who was known to the locals as Sayed Kamala, was working as a health worker in the province and had been filming the lives of local women as part of her work. This may was irked militants who have been carrying out attacks against women in the region.

Police said Taliban militants arrived at her home in the provincial capital, Kharana, tied up her husband and other members of the family, took Banerjee out and shot her.

They dumped her body near a religious school, police added.

No group has yet said it carried out the attack.

Heather Barr, a researcher with the Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan said, “It’s not safe anywhere in Afghanistan. Patika which is in the Eastern part of Afghanistan is particularly dangerous. Last year, two women holding prominent position of power were killed in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan. The acting head of women’s affairs Najia Sediqi was shot to death in daylight on December 2012 as she was travelling to work. Sediqi’s predecessor, Hanifa Safi, was killed when an improvised bomb exploded under her car. Both deaths were attributed to the Taliban. No woman in a prominent position is safe in Afghanistan. Almost all the people working for women’s rights have been threatened.”

The attacks against women have spiralled in the past few months. A female Afghan member of parliament was abducted while she was travelling with her children last month. This was first time a female MP was abducted by insurgents and showed how prominent women being targeted in the country.

Some orthodox Muslim groups are advocating against women working outside the home and building independent careers for their own safety. Gunmen shot dead one of the country’s most high-profile female police officers in July. A former woman Afghan MP also recently sought asylum in the UK after being abandoned by her kin for seeking divorce for her abusive husband.

The empowering of women is often held as one of the great successes of the Nato coalition. With the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force looming in 2014, it seems women’s rights have taken many steps backwards.

Human rights groups say that a string of laws passed recently by Afghan parliament will expose women to more abuse. The orthodox camp in Afghanistan is demanding shutting down of women’s shelters, which they describe as whore houses. That would effectively make prosecutions for domestic violence all but impossible.

As Nato troops prepare to leave Afghanistan at the end of next year, it seems the work that they managed to do over the past decade is unravelling before their own eyes.

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