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Female Afghan lawmaker wounded in shooting attack

April 16, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A female Afghan lawmaker was wounded in a shooting that her sister called a political attack, but which the government on Wednesday described as resulting from an undetermined personal dispute with a police officer.

Maryam Koofi was recovering in a Kabul hospital from after being shot twice in the leg the previous night as she left her office. Her bodyguard was more seriously wounded with shots to his head and leg.

It was the second attack in a day on a high-profile figure in the capital. On Tuesday morning, Afghanistan’s deputy public works minister was abducted from his car on his way to work.

Koofi is a parliamentarian from the northern province of Takhar. Her sister, Fawzia Koofi, is also a member of parliament and a well-known women’s rights activist.

Fawzia Koofi said her sister told her she was just getting into her car after dark when an unseen attacker fired. She said she was convinced the shooting was an act of political intimidation by those who oppose the rights women have been granted since the fall of the hard-line Islamic Taliban government.

“By attacking a woman politician, they actually create a more terrorizing environment for women,” said Fawzia Koofi, who herself survived a shooting attack on her car in 2010. “I don’t know who was behind this attack — but I know that it was political.”

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior, however, identified Koofi’s shooter as a police officer. A ministry statement said that two were in a “dispute” and that the policeman, who was not named, is under investigation “to determine the cause of this dispute.”

Fawzia Koofi said her sister had no personal disputes and saw no police in the area when the shooting began.

The attack comes as many women’s rights activists worry that the departure of most foreign troops at the end of this year could risk the gains they have made since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban.

For five years, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam that banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced to wear a head-to-toe burqa, which covers even the face with a mesh panel. Violators were publicly flogged or executed.

Women’s freedoms have expanded in recent years and parliament now has 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women. Still, Afghanistan remains a deeply traditional culture, especially in rural areas, and Taliban insurgents as well as some religious conservative politicians oppose a greater role for women in public life.

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