On my recent flight back to Kabul from Istanbul I just happened to sit next to Fawzia Koofi and enjoyed conversing with her. I also just happened to see her the night before on BBC’s Hard Talk. Upon my return to Kabul I immediately downloaded her book on my Kindle and devoured it in 2 days. This is not just another book about how bad women are treated in Afghanistan. Her Chapter 20 is a must read for anyone interested in Afghanistan’s future. She talks about her vision for the future of Afghanistan and the current “political malnourishment” of Afghanistan and lack of social capital that results in the typical Afghan only concerned about the welfare of his immediate family and not the country. She points out that Afghans are most concerned about governance and security. If these two issues can be addressed than social capital development should ensue. Access to education, especially for girls, is key in Fawzia’s opinion to changing traditional treatment of women. Fawzia does not advocate for a secular Afghanistan, she firmly believes in the concept of an islamic democracy governed by the true teachings of the Koran.
Fawzia comes from one of the most unique, remote, and beautiful parts of Afghanistan. Her book regales the reader with information on what life is like there. Bear in mind that Afghanistan has more species of cats, such as snow leopards, than Africa with many of them endemic to her Badakshan.
There are many dark forces against people like Fawzia. Unfortunately non-Afghans are limited in the extent that they can help the Fawzia type change agents of the country. Ultimately outside influences need to leave Afghanistan alone and let Afghans work out their differences and decide the future of their country. She points out paradoxically that it was the Russians who started the 33 year period of foreign intervention that torn the fabric of Afghanistan. Yet it was the Russian emphasis on infrastructure and universal education that offered the greatest promise for improving the plight of the typical Afghan.
Let’s hope that Fawzia does not end up as a martyr. The World is much better off with her in it.
Brian D. Rudert
Former US diplomat in the Foreign Service