The Taliban had warned her repeatedly, but the veteran public-health worker insisted on carrying on work as usual at her clinic in rural Kandahar.
The midwife's defiance would prove fatal: Two months ago, the insurgents shot her dead.
What had enraged the Islamist rebels was a surprising issue, more often debated in the West than Afghanistan. As part of a fledgling family-planning program, the worker, known only as Zarghona, was distributing condoms and birth-control pills, something the insurgents called sacrilege.
"We took up arms against the Infidels in order to bring Islamic law to this land," said a chilling letter delivered later to her employer, bearing the seal of the Taliban military council.
"But you people are supporting our enemies, the enemies of Islam and Muslims.... Personnel were trained to distribute family-planning pills. The aim of this project is to persuade the young girls to commit adultery."
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Canwest News Service, noted the insurgents had warned Zarghona to stop distributing contraceptives "but she paid no heed, so we killed her."
Insurgents will issue three warnings before taking action against a health worker, he added. The Taliban have also sent threatening letters to clinics, saying male doctors should not examine female patients, though often women health workers are not available, Dr. Rahman said.
The clinics get female guards to interview women patients and pass on the information to the male physician, but that does not seem to satisfy the insurgents.
The Taliban letter about Zarghona's murder also addresses the male-doctor issue and concludes by warning, "Your activities are under close monitoring. If you do not pay heed, you will be punished."
Meanwhile, the insurgents have added to the challenges faced by polio vaccinators, said Dr. Karim Asseir, WHO manager of the program here.
Implementation teams made up of residents have been negotiating with the insurgents to win their approval, often with success. The Islamists are increasingly raising objections to what they consider, inaccurately, to be a program of the hated Karzai government, he said.
On Sept. 14, he watched, horrified, as a white Toyota Corolla swerved into the car ahead of him on an official trip to south Kandahar. Then it blew up, killing the two polio doctors inside the other vehicle. "What the anti-government elements are trying to do is to be recognized as the people who are in control of these areas," Dr. Asseir said.
I can't understand why Canadians of all political stripes can't support the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that indifference to the suffering of the people there is all the more astonishing coming from the left which purports to be the true protector of women's rights. Are you paying attention Jack Layton?
related posts here, here, here, here and here.