Female Afghan Mayor Who Feared for Her Life Escapes

Zarifa Ghafari says she hopes to return to Afghanistan someday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2021 3:37 PM CDT
Female Afghan Mayor: I Escaped Under Taliban's Nose
Zarifa Ghafari, former mayor of Maidan Shahr and Afghan women's rights activist, who arrived with her family in Cologne last Monday, is pictured outside a hotel in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan's first female mayors who earlier this month said she was waiting for the Taliban to kill her, has made it to safety in Germany but is already imagining her return to her country. The 29-year-old former mayor of Maidan Shar describes the pain she felt after her father, a senior member of the Afghan military, was gunned down outside his home in Kabul last year, allegedly by the Taliban. Leaving Afghanistan, she tells the BBC, "was more painful than losing my dad."

She hadn't planned on leaving, at least not until the Taliban regained power. Then militants showed up at her home and beat her security guard, she says. She believes she was a target as a proponent of women's rights. Ghafari therefore arranged for a car to take her family to Kabul airport on Aug. 18. She hid in the car's footwell. "When we reached the airport gate, there were Taliban fighters everywhere," she says. But she was unseen and managed to board a flight to Istanbul, with help from the Turkish ambassador in Kabul.

Now in Düsseldorf, Ghafari thanks the German people for "saving" her, per Reuters. But "I'll never be able to manage the pain inside my heart," she tells the BBC. "That's my country … I struggled for years to make it [there]." She doesn't believe the Taliban when it says women will retain an active role in society—"their words never match their actions"—but still she hopes to return when it is safe. She's even willing to talk with the Taliban. "Foreign forces are not coming to help us. It's our time to solve the issues with the Taliban," she tells the BBC. "I'm ready to take this responsibility." (More Afghanistan stories.)

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