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UNESCO Director-General condemns murder of women’s rights champion and educationalist, Safia Ama Jan

3 October 2006 - The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today vigorously condemned the murder of Afghan women’s rights defender and leading advocate of education for girls, Safia Ama Jan, who was gunned down outside her home in Kandahar on 25 September. Mr Matsuura also announced that UNESCO would conduct a study on violence against education personnel to better understand the extent of the phenomenon, identify areas where educationalists were most at risk and look at what could be done to improve their safety and security. The published study will be dedicated to the memory of Ms Ama Jan.

“Safia Ama Jan was assassinated because of her defence of women’s rights and her fierce determination to provide education for the girls of Afghanistan,” the Director-General said. “This intolerable act must be condemned as a crime against the people of Afghanistan – the parents, the children, and all those working to rebuild this great country and consolidate its future. Every effort must be made to bring the perpetrators of this cowardly attack to justice.

“This week, on 5 October, World Teachers’ Day is celebrated in recognition of the millions of educationalists the world over who are working to equip our children for a better future. Safia Ama Jan was a former teacher who, during the reign of the Taleban, risked her life by running an underground school for girls from her home. As the Director of Women’s Affairs in Kandahar Province, she worked tirelessly to get all Afghan girls back into school and to provide professional and vocational training for women.

“Her courage was an inspiration to us all. And her violent death serves as a grim reminder that those working to defend human rights, including and especially women’s rights, the right to education and education for girls, are often working on the front line, with their lives constantly under threat.

“National authorities and the international community must stand united against the forces that would seek to destroy the efforts made by people such as Safia Ama Jan. Education is one of the pillars of development, prosperity and peace. It is a human right. We must do our utmost to defend and ensure the security of those who are working in this vital area.”


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