Afghanistan's first female director Saba Sahar shot by three gunmen

Afghanistan’s first female film director Saba Sahar is shot in the stomach by three gunmen targeting her vehicle en route to work following years of death threats

  • Saba Sahar, actress, director, police officer and women’s rights activist, was shot
  • The trailblazing Afghan woman was targeted on Tuesday near her home in Kabul
  • Sahar rose to fame following the success of her 2004 film The Law
  • Her husband Emal Zaki heard the gunshots near their home on Tuesday
  • He said she was shot in the stomach and is currently recovering in hospital
  • Diplomats from around the world condemned the attack on the ‘brave’ director 

Afghanistan’s first female film director has been shot and wounded in Kabul by three gunmen who opened fire on her car.

Saba Sahar, a trailblazing actress, director, police officer and women’s rights activist, was targeted on Tuesday, with the attack happening five minutes from her house.   

Her husband, Emal Zaki, told the BBC that she was one of five people in the vehicle, including the driver, two bodyguards and a child. 

It was not clear if the child was one of Sahar’s children. 

Saba Sahar, Afghanistan’s first female film director, was shot near her Kabul home on Tuesday

Sahar was a rare female actress, producer and director in the male-dominated country

Emal Zaki, Saha’s husband, said the shooting was so close to their home he heard the shots

‘I reached the scene and found them all wounded,’ Zaki told the BBC, adding that it happened so close to home, he could hear the gunshots. 

Afghanistan’s Tolo News published photos of the gold SUV she was traveling in, its windows shielded by curtains, but now shattered by bullets. 

‘She received first aid and we transferred her to the emergency hospital and then to the police hospital.’

Zaki said that Sahar was shot in the stomach and was able to answer the phone when he called her. He said she later underwent a successful surgery. 

Sabar was well known in Afghanistan following the huge success of her first film, The Law, released in 2004.

Photos published by local media showed Sahar’s vehicle, its windows shattered by bullets

She was in the car with two bodyguards, a driver and a child when the attack happened

The British embassy in Afghanistan tweeted: ‘Condemn this cowardly attack on a brave Afghan woman. Wishing Saba Sahar a full recovery.’

Markus Potzel, Germany’s envoy to Afghanistan, tweeted: ‘Another courageous female member of the AFG society was attacked today. 

‘Perpetrators must be investigated&held accountable. Wishing speedy recovery to #sabasahar & all the injured. #stoptheviolence’.  

Earlier this month one of the only women taking part in negotiations with the Taliban was shot while in her car.

Fawzia Koofi was shot in the right arm on August 15 while traveling with her sister.

The US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, described the attack as a ‘cowardly and criminal’ attempt to disrupt the Afghan peace process. 

Britain’s embassy tweeted its condemnation of the ‘cowardly attack on a brave Afghan woman’

Germany’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, described Sahar as ‘courageous’

‘Afghanistan: The rise in attacks and assassination attempts on human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and film actors is extremely worrying,’ said Amnesty International South Asia in a tweet on Tuesday.

‘These attacks must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. The authorities must protect everyone at risk.’ 

Sahar has faced death threats for decades, owing to her high-profile work in the deeply traditional and male-dominated country. 

Sahar trained as a police officer and still works for the interior ministry. Her films and television programs have explored justice and corruption. 

‘I want to show that Afghan women are capable of doing anything men do,’ she said in an interview with The Guardian in 2012.

‘I want to show the conservatives who lock their daughters and wives at home that they should let them out to get an education, earn some money and help rebuild Afghanistan.’

Sahar has faced death threats for many years, since the success of 2004’s The Law

The director was undaunted, however, and vowed that she would not abandon the profession

Sahar is pictured directing a scene for a television series in May 2011 in Kabul

Sahar wanted to show ‘there’s more to Afghanistan than fighting, drugs and terrorism’

At the time, she said that she had received death threats from anonymous phone callers. 

‘They told me to say goodbye to my loved ones because I’d soon be dead.’

After reporting the threats to authorities, Sahar said the calls only continued. 

‘They called me again and asked why I’d gone to the authorities,’ she said. 

‘They said that even if the whole government is behind you, we will still kill you. We will murder you on the street, in public.

‘Every morning when I leave the house, I know I might get killed, might never see my family again.’

Sahar refused to be cowed, however. 

‘Making movies is my love,’ she said. 

‘I love my country. I want to show people that there’s more to Afghanistan than fighting, drugs and terrorism. 

‘If I die for asking for my rights and inspiring other women to fight for theirs, then I’m ready to lose my life.’

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