Mourners bury the body of Lt. Nigara in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province, September 16, 2013 (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty)
Lieutenant Nigara, the top female police officer in Afghanistan's Helmand province, was shot twice on her way to work this past Sunday, September 15. She died from her injuries the next day.
The death came only three months after Nigara's predecessor Lt. Islam Bibi, another high-ranking female police officer, was assassinated by unidentified attackers, the Guardian reports. Officials have announced the arrest of five men in the shooting of Nigara, but released no other details.
The killings of Nigara and her predecessor have "put a spotlight on the dangers facing Afghan women who take on high-profile public roles," Jenna Fisher writes in the Christian Science Monitor. Both Lt. Nigara and Lt. Bibi were seen as role models for women in the region, Fisher says, and their deaths may be a sign that "the small gains that women have made in Afghanistan in the past decade are already being reversed as Western forces withdraw."
Threats against policewomen are commonplace in the region, according to one female police officer who asked not to be identified. She told PRI's The World that the Taliban has warned "they will kill every single policewoman in Helmand within three months."
As well as death threats, some female police officers in Afghanistan also face "pervasive sexual violence and harassment by their male colleagues," according to an unpublished UN report cited by the New York Times. The report found that about 90 per cent of policewomen interviewed described sexual harrassment and violence as "a serious problem," and that about 70 per cent had personally experienced sexual violence or sexual harrassment themselves.
The Afghan Interior Ministry responded to the report, calling it an "exaggeration," but stated that it was working on improving conditions for policewomen. Only one per cent of Afghanistan's 155,000 police officers are women.
International aid organization Oxfam released a report earlier this month suggesting that Afghanistan will struggle to end crimes including domestic abuse, forced marriage and "honour" killings if it fails to significantly increase the number of women in its police service.