GHAZNI, Afghanistan -- The family of a young female Afghan police officer is seeking justice after her recent kidnapping and murder in a volatile southeastern Afghan province.
Relatives say the Taliban abducted, tortured, and killed Fatima Faizi, 23, a member of Afghanistan’s anti-narcotics police, in Ghazni Province, where the hard-line Islamists control large parts of the countryside. The Taliban have denied any involvement in her disappearance or death.
“My daughter was killed because she was accused of serving the people as a policewoman,” Maryam, Faizi’s widowed mother, told Radio Free Afghanistan. Like many Afghans, she goes by one name only. “She was caring and deeply committed to her job.”
As Kabul prepares to join the Taliban in complex peace negotiations after a grand council of Afghan leaders approved the release of remaining Taliban prisoners, the two sides will need more immediate confidence-building measures. Ensuring the security of government workers in rural regions controlled by the insurgents could figure prominently on such a list.
But like the countless other victims of four decades of violence in Afghanistan, Faizi’s murder is unlikely to be resolved and her killers punished even if the government and the Taliban agree to a cease-fire.
Maryam says she approached tribal leaders soon after learning armed insurgents had forced Faizi out of a car in Ghanzi’s rural Qarabagh district on July 11. Faizi had been traveling to spend time with her family in Ghazni, the capital city of the province by the same name. She was on leave from serving at Kabul’s Pul-e Charkhi, Afghanistan’s largest prison.
In the days that followed, Maryam begged tribal leaders and clerics in the Qarabagh, Maqur, Giro, and Andar districts to persuade the Taliban to release her daughter. The insurgents wouldn’t meet with her, but intermediaries told Maryam that the Taliban were demanding the equivalent of $6,500 for her daughter’s release. “We are very poor and don’t have that kind of money,” she said.
On July 25, Faizi’s mutilated body was discovered in the Andar district. “She was our breadwinner,” Maryam said. “My son is sick and jobless,” she added. “Now we can do nothing but weep for Fatima and hope she gets justice.”
Samiullah Rajabi, Faizi’s brother, says they have no doubt about who kidnapped and killed his sister. “She was taken by the Taliban,” he told Tolo News. “They [the Taliban] had demands that the elders [acting as intermediaries] could not meet.”
Khaliqdad Akbari, a member of the Ghazni Provincial Council, says the Taliban were prepared to free Faizi once her family and community promised she would quit her government job. “We were ready to give this commitment to release the captive,” Akbari said.
Why the effort failed remains unclear. The Taliban were opposed to women’s employment during their brief stint in power in the 1990s. Today, the movement’s leaders claim that they allow women to work. But targeting government workers has been a hallmark of the Taliban insurgency for nearly two decades.
Officials in Ghazni say they can confirm Faizi was killed by the Taliban. “They held her for two weeks, and then her corpse was found in the Zakur region of Andar,” provincial government spokesman Wahidullah Jumazada told Radio Free Afghanistan.
The Taliban, however, have denied involvement. Zabihullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Taliban commanders in Ghazni have no information about whether Faizi was captured or killed by their fighters. “The Taliban are not involved in this incident,” he said.
In the regions they control in rural provinces, the Afghan government and the Taliban run parallel administrations while their forces frequently clash along the frontlines. Threatening, kidnapping, and even killing government workers is a favored Taliban tactic aimed at terrifying others and weakening government support among the rural populace.
For years, female Afghan police officers have been at the receiving end of such violence. In 2008, the Taliban claimed credit for killing Malali Kakar, a top police officer in the southern province of Kandahar. In 2013, Lieutenant Negar, the most senior police officer in the neighboring province of Helmand, and her predecessor, Islam Bibi, were shot dead by gunmen. Authorities blamed the “enemies of Afghanistan” — a euphemism for the Taliban militants — for their killing.
Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Radio Free Afghanistan reporter Habibur Rahman Taseer’s reporting from Ghazni, Afghanistan.