Fears Stoked for Future of Women in Afghanistan After Indian Author Killed

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SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA / AFP / Getty Images

Author Sushmita Banerjee, writer of the novel 'Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife' based of her life, poses at a press conference announcing the launch of the movie 'Escape From Taliban' in Bombay, 17 Dec. 2002

On Wednesday night, the Afghan Taliban killed 49-year-old Indian author Sushmita Banerjee outside her home in Paktika province.

Banerjee was known for a popular memoir that chronicled her turbulent life as the wife of an Afghan in Kabul under the Taliban regime. According to the police, Taliban militants tied up her family members and took Banerjee out and shot her. The Taliban have denied responsibility.

Banerjee, a Bengali woman with independent views, defied her family to marry Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan in Kolkata in 1989 and go to live with him in Kabul, where she began to work with local women, educating them in social and health issues. “I am not a qualified doctor. But I knew a little about common ailments and since there was no medical help in the vicinity, I thought I could support myself and keep myself busy by dispensing medicines,” she wrote.

(PHOTOS: Women of Afghanistan Under Taliban Threat)

Banerjee’s problems with the Taliban began in 1998, when the extremist group objected to her work.  “They [the Taliban] ordered me to close down the dispensary and branded me a woman of poor morals.”

In 1994, she decided to escape, but was tracked down by her in-laws and put under house arrest. She later dug a secret tunnel through the mud walls of her home and fled again but was arrested by the Taliban near Kabul. She talked them out of executing her and instead convinced them to send her back to India.

Her story was recounted in the 1995 best-seller Kabuliwalar Bengali Bou (A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife), which was adapted into a popular Bollywood movie in 2003. She also wrote about her experiences for Outlook India magazine.

In January this year, Banerjee, also known as Sayed Kamala, went back to Kabul to write a second book and live with her husband, where she began a film project with local women. Her murder raises yet more questions about the safety and future of women in the country once allied forces complete their withdrawal in 2014.

MORE: How Afghanistan’s Poorest Are Bearing the Brunt of the War

11 comments
arvay
arvay

As we once again ponder a military adventure presented to us --  let's think about another effect we've had in this region.

In addition to all the dead and maimed, the enormous diversion of resources -- we've effectively identified many potential progressive thinkers in Afghanistan for killing after we leave by the fanatics we've helped recruit. Even if we had rebuilt everything, this result would be an irretrievable disaster for the Afghan people. 

applefellup
applefellup

Wow! Whoever offed that heifer deserves an award for environmental awareness.

Baileys789
Baileys789

The bible mentions Joshua being instructed by God to exterminate certain tribes from the face of the earth. It is time to gas the Taliban root and branch off the face of the globe. The present policy of sending our beautiful manhood to be destroyed and mutilated by these creatures is tragic.

Pankajatoz73
Pankajatoz73

@TIME @TIMEWorld Why women, there is no future of Afghanistan, if Taliban exists there with their dark ages ideology.

pierre.six
pierre.six

Another cowardly attack against a remarkable and courageous human being.
With every such killing, God is slowly shrinking into oblivion.
Not surprising then that more and more people are leaving religion behind and embracing modernity. 

jvkfai
jvkfai

@bigtrout60 @TIME @TIMEWorld

Suppressing women is the norm throughout the world, the Talaban just take it to the extreme!

IceToes
IceToes

@pierre.six True. Courageous, giving, and determined. Not everybody who was up against what she was would have gone back to try and work in that hole. What a worthless place, controlled by worthless cowards. A great loss, but the universe has a bright new star in the sky.