Last week Jon Stewart had Fawzia Koofi as a guest on the Daily Show (where I get my news). Koofi is a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan and has announced her intention to run for president in 2014. Her interview inspired me to download her book for Kindle on my iPhone and read it over the weekend.
Her memoir is beautifully written. It's heartbreaking, terrifying, and inspirational. Koofi grew up in the turbulent period of Afghan history that we are all familiar with - she saw her country run by an Afghani King, the Soviet's, by the Mujahideen, the Taliban, and the new government of the last few years. Her life started in a mountain village in a family with a long history of being involved in local politics, but her comfortable life (by local standards) all came to an end when her father was murdered by the Mujahideen. Assassins also came for the rest of their family and she and her mother only survived by hiding in cow dung piled around them by their neighbors in a barn. The rest of her childhood involved moving from a series of homes with different relatives. She managed to convince her mother to let her attend school (rare for a girl from a rural village). Her childhood and early adult life were also marred by periods intense fighting in Afghanistan. Periods when she risked being beaten, shot, raped, or all three just to attend school. And then when the Taliban took over, everyone stopped going to school. After she married, she spent months trying to get her husband out of prison after he was arrested for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The courage she had to have to face Taliban officials, to be traveling all over Kabul, while pregnant, begging and pleading with everyone her family might possibly have a connection with who could help get her husband out of prison - sometimes not knowing if they would be sympathetic, or if they might attack her, or imprison her as well - is unimaginable. It's the type of fortitude and courage that makes me so grateful for the comfortable life I've lived and the stable society I was born into.
Koofi's story is also full of optimism. She is hopeful that Afghanistan can again be the great nation it once was - that it's people can be happy, prosperous, tolerant, accepting and that they can democratically elect their leaders. The biggest testament to her belief in the future of Afghanistan is that she chose to stay; an educated woman like herself from a well-connected family could have left, but she didn't. Her book is a wonderful read.