Former Afghan Lawmaker Shot Dead at Her Home in Kabul

The New York Times

A female former legislator in Afghanistan was killed at her home in the capital, Kabul, the police and her family said — a high-profile murder of one of the few women parliamentarians who remained in the country after the Western-backed government collapsed and the Taliban seized power.

The legislator, Mursal Nabizada, was shot dead early Sunday morning along with her bodyguard, according to Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran. Guests were visiting her at her house the night that she was killed, he added. Her brother suffered injuries.

No one has yet been arrested in connection with the killings, Mr. Zadran said, and it was not immediately clear whether it was politically motivated, or a family or interpersonal conflict. “A comprehensive investigation of the incident is underway,” Mr. Zadran tweeted on Monday.

When the Taliban took over in August 2021, the Parliament was dissolved. Ms. Nabizada, who was sworn in to Parliament in 2019 under the previous government, initially wanted to leave the country along with most of her colleagues, who were evacuated by Western governments. But she chose to stay in Afghanistan because she was unable to find a way to bring her family members with her, said Shinkai Karokhail, a former member of Parliament who served with Ms. Nabizada.

More recently, officials also barred women from attending universities and from working in most local and international aid groups — prompting many major organizations to suspend their operations and threatening to plunge the country deeper into a humanitarian crisis.

Ms. Nabizada, originally from Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, was just 26 when she won election. It was a feat illustrative of her generation in Afghanistan, which was raised in an era of greater freedom for women after the United States toppled the Taliban’s first regime.

In the two decades that followed, millions of girls returned to school and opportunities for work and public service expanded. When she was sworn in, Ms. Nabizada was one of 69 women who served in the 250-seat Parliament.

Despite her short time in government, Ms. Nabizada seemed to be acutely aware of the shortcomings and endemic corruption plaguing the former political system.

In an interview with a local station, Arezo T.V., in August last year, Ms. Nabizada blamed the collapse of the previous government on corruption and infighting between a few powerful politicians working for their own benefit over the interests of the Afghan people.

“In the previous government, everyone loved their position of power, no one wanted to lose their position and salary and, as a result, everyone used their powers and authority in a useless way,” she said.

Still, despite its flaws, to many like Ms. Nabizada, the former Afghan government represented an era of expanded hope for a better future — and its collapse was devastating. On the television program, Ms. Nabizada recalled the heartbreak she felt the day the Taliban first entered the capital and the previous government collapsed.

“It was very painful when I saw our soldiers abandon their weapons at their checkpoints and leave,” she said. “In that moment my heart was bursting.”

She explained that after the initial fear and anxiety that she felt when the Taliban returned to power, she had come to feel more at ease and had returned to work at a local charity where she served before joining parliament.

“Now women are imprisoned at home,” she said. “They have responsibilities for their families, they must work. Women are in a very bad situation, that is, they are buried alive in the grave.”

Her comments were a rare public rebuke from anyone inside Afghanistan to a Taliban administration that has clamped down on dissent and the media.

Even so, it was clear that Ms. Nabizada was not free herself from the mounting restrictions on women. She appeared on the program wearing a black abaya — or robelike dress — a dark green scarf and a black face mask that covered all but her green eyes.

During the interview, a waiter brought Ms. Nabizada cake and tea, to which she quipped: “How can I eat the cake and drink the tea now? You gave me a mask.”

In response, the interviewer laughed and told her the mask was not his idea. It was mandated by the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Safiullah Padshah contributed reporting.

Former Afghan Lawmaker Shot Dead at Her Home in Kabul