KABUL (Reuters) - A popular female politician in east Afghanistan died in hospital on Monday following a bomb attack on her vehicle last week, Afghan officials said, underscoring the growing dangers for women in the government.
Angiza Shinwari, in her mid-thirties, was at the start of a second term as a provincial council member in Nangarhar and had been transferred to Kabul for treatment. Her driver was killed in the explosion and four other people injured.
It was the second deadly attack on a female politician in three months, after outspoken parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai was targeted in November. Barakzai survived the suicide bombing, but at least three others were killed.
Female politicians are often threatened by their families as well as the Taliban, because taking a public role is considered indecent in much of ultra-conservative Afghanistan.
Colleagues described Shinwari as a determined defender of women’s rights in the ultra-conservative east and an active member of Nangarhar’s provincial council.
“She worked very hard, for women and for her own people,” said Muhtarama Amin, a friend and former provincial council member in Nangarhar.
Amin left her post last year to teach at university and wait for an opportunity to run for parliament.
“When I go to teach at university, I face a very bad, dangerous situation,” Amin said by telephone. “I am very afraid that the people sending me threats will try to kill me.”
Amin said she had appealed both to Afghan and foreign officials for protection without success. “All women working in government are in great danger. And the situation is especially bad for provincial council members,” Amin said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Shinwari kept a low profile, appearing in public with her face covered by a niqab, a Muslim veil leaving only the eyes visible.
In the more conservative parts of Afghanistan, even this is considered improper and women are pressured to wear the all-covering burqa, which covers the eyes with a fabric grill.
The governor of Nangarhar province blamed Kabul for Shinwari’s death. “Because of their carelessness, Shinwari passed away after surgery,” he said in a statement.
The president’s office described Shinwari in a statement as a teacher of Islamic sciences, a poet and a national hero.
Shinwari had lost both legs in the attack and doctors were unable to save her after surgery.
Reporting by Jessica Donati; Editing by Tom Heneghan