Ground Report | New Delhi: Afghanistan’s first female mayor; When Zarifa Ghafari spoke to me from her Kabul apartment three weeks ago, she expected her and her country to have a future. On Sunday, the Taliban were preparing to take control of the capital after a swift advance in Afghanistan, waiting for Islamist militants to arrive and kill them.
“I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There’s no one to help me or my family. I’m just sitting with her and my husband. And they’ll come for people like me and kill me. Can’t leave my family. And anyway, where will I go?” At the time, she said that she was no longer able to talk.
Ghafari, 27, rose to prominence in 2018 by becoming the youngest and first female mayor of Afghanistan in Maidan Wardak province. The Taliban have vowed to kill an often outspoken, politically influential female critic. Her father, General Abdul Wasi Ghafari, was shot dead on November 15 last year, just 20 days after her third attempt at life failed.
With the Taliban resurfacing and her public profile rising, Ghafari was given a job in the relative security of the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, with responsibility for the welfare of soldiers and civilians wounded in the terrorist attacks.
Afghanistan’s first female mayor
Three weeks ago, Ms Ghafari said: “Young people know what’s going on. They have social media. They communicate. I think they will continue to fight for progress and our rights. I think this is the future of this country.”
On Sunday, the Taliban’s chief spokesman promised Zabihullah Mujahid that the lives of women and opponents would be protected. The rebels said they would offer an “apology” to those working with the Afghan government or foreign forces. “No life, property, and honor will be harmed and there will be no threat to the lives of citizens of Kabul,” the Taliban said.
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However, there is already evidence of revenge killings and other brutal tactics in the areas of the country seized by the group, which now seeks to confirm its hold on Kabul. A new Afghan government led by the Taliban is expected to take power in a matter of days or in the hours of Sunday. The Taliban insisted they were seeking a peaceful transfer of power and promised an apology for those who worked abroad or with the Afghan government.
However, such assurances were met with deep skepticism amid fears that they would return to the harsh policies they had been subjected to before the forced expulsion in 2001 – including the repression of women and girls.