THE TALIBAN KIDNAPPERS moved her to at least 13 homes, made her sleep on the ground, and kept asking where she’d been, what she’d done and whom she knew.
Every few days, she would be given a chance to call her family.
Still, the militants would push her only so far — they knew they needed to keep their bargaining chip in good shape.
Fariba Ahmadi Kakar’s four-week ordeal ended this month after the Afghan government gave in to her captors’ demands to free some prisoners.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the 39-year-old Afghan lawmaker gave a rare account of what it’s like for a woman to be held captive by the Islamist insurgents.
“I wasn’t tortured. I wasn’t under constant stress. But I wasn’t free,” Kakar said.
She’s also lucky to be alive.
Since July, several prominent women have been attacked in Afghanistan.
Among them: two police officers who were killed in the south, an Indian author living in eastern Afghanistan who was killed years after her memoir about 1990s life under Taliban rule became a Bollywood film; and a senator who was wounded in an ambush.
These and other attacks on female leaders in recent years have generally been blamed on the Taliban, though the Afghan militant group, mindful of cultural sensitivities, usually does not admit to targeting women.
Being a woman in the public eye is a special challenge in Afghanistan, where tribal and conservative Islamic mores have long subjected women across the social spectrum to violence and discrimination.
The spotlight can be a shield, making men think twice about mistreating a woman and perhaps even guaranteeing that she’ll be assigned a bodyguard. At the same time, it can make a woman a more attractive target for insurgents hoping to spread fear and weaken confidence in the Afghan government.
Kakar is one of 69 female lawmakers in the 249-seat lower house of parliament, and she’s never been naive about the danger she and other prominent Afghan women face. Still, her initial encounter with her kidnappers was so swift and shocking it’s still something of a blur today.
Kakar, her four children, her bodyguard and her driver were traveling from southern Kandahar province to Kabul, the Afghan capital, when a handful of armed militants on motorbikes appeared ahead of them on the outskirts of Ghazni city. The gunmen made the driver turn off the highway onto a bumpy, dirt road that led to a small village.
The militants put the group in the home of an Afghan Taliban family, separating the men from the women and saying little. Kakar, though, quickly began pleading with the captors to free her three daughters and son, ages 2 to 20.
Kakar leads a privileged life compared to most Afghans, and she was deeply troubled by the poverty and ignorance around her. There were no beds to sleep on, the food was often “inedible,” and there was no sense of any government presence. When she needed medicine, she’d give the militants some of her own money so they could buy it for her.
“The people in these villages don’t even know what vaccines are,” said Kakar, a former development worker whose constituency is in Kandahar city.
The ordeal has left Kakar even more determined to pursue her political activism, especially in light of next year’s presidential election, which she says will be a “lie” when so many Afghans lack access to government services or basic information.
I am even braver than before.
I will defend Afghanistan, especially the women, until the last drop of my blood.
All pictures: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul