The bravest woman in Afghanistan
Roghul Khairzad, a Senator in Afghanistan, won’t give up fighting for the rights of women in her country, despite shocking attacks on her and her family.
On 4 August 2013, two days before the Muslim festival of Eid, the Taliban attacked my vehicle as I drove my family home. They killed my nine-year old daughter Dunya and brother Ghulam Jailani. Dunya’s twin sister was paralyzed because of the injuries she received. I was shot nine times, including in my liver, lung and leg.
I was attacked again on 8 January 2015 when four armed men opened fire on my car. I was in a coma for two weeks and nearly died. I have been struggling with my recovery ever since and have had to leave the country for treatment. My son is suffering from trauma having witnessed the attack.
The Taliban have no mercy for anyone, especially if it’s women working for women’s rights .
As soon as I came out of hospital after the first attack I went straight back to work. Everyone said: “How can you be back with the threats you’re facing?” But I wanted to show them I can continue working. And I wanted to motivate other women to carry on their work too. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs gave me an award for being the bravest woman in Afghanistan.
My fight hasn’t come cheap
But I’m not alone. The Taliban have no mercy for anyone, especially if it’s women working for women’s rights or women who want to be in decision-making positions. They want to spread fear and stop our activities.
Of course, my fight hasn’t come cheap. My family lives in constant fear. Sometimes I feel ashamed because whatever they have gone through is because of my work and what I believe. They say to me: “Look what you have done to us. We have no life because of what you’re doing.”
I always thought I’d be unbreakable, but now I think am broken. Today, I’m in another country and I’m safe and protected, but for me it is also a kind of defeat. I want to be in Afghanistan and I want to fight for the rights of the Afghan people.
But I am very scared that my family will be attacked again. I feel like a cat, carrying my children from location to location, without being able to put them in one place and settle them in safety.
We are stronger
I have kept the intelligence services informed of the threats against me, but the official response has been negligible. And I still have no answer for who was responsible for killing my daughter and brother.
The Afghan government doesn’t do anything for women. If there was enough support, I would have had more protection. If a male politician had suffered the threats and attacks I faced, he would have been surrounded by bodyguards. But when it comes to women the government just turns the other way.
You give me energy. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to be so passionate about my future.
My message to Afghan women human rights defenders is that we are far stronger and more powerful than men. I don’t think we should think of having equality with men in Afghanistan, because these are men who destroyed our country, who raped children, who did so many bad things. We are far better than them, and we should fight for that betterment, to identify our strengths and move the situation on.
You give me power
I can’t find enough words to thank Amnesty for all the support you have given me and other Afghan women in very difficult situations. You have stood by me and have kept supporting me through different phases in my life. You give me power. You give me energy. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to be so passionate about my future.
I would like to ask you and your supporters to continue supporting Afghan women, including women who are in politics, the civil service and other areas of life who are trying to bring a change to the lives of other women.
I’m not giving up politics. I will continue fighting, I will continue to stand for the rights of Afghan people. If you have a higher mission in life, it can be important enough to keep you going.