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Letters to My Daughters

Author charts her life as a female politician in Afghanistan

By Brian Platt

Letters to My Daughters: A Memoir
By Fawzia Koofi
(Douglas & McIntyre) $29.95

Fawzia Koofi is the Taliban’s worst nightmare: a smart, ambitious, irrepressible woman. This is why they keep trying to kill her.

Not only was Koofi elected as a member of parliament in Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban elections, but she then defeated many powerful warlords to become the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. She has plans to run for president. This book charts the story of her life in Afghanistan, with each chapter separated by a letter to her daughters. “The Taliban and all who seek to silence me will not be happy until I am dead,” she tells them in the first one.

Koofi’s father was a well-respected local politician in the 1960s, when Afghanistan was modernizing and democratizing faster than almost any other country in the developing world. But then came the communist coups and the Soviet invasion. Koofi’s father organized a meeting of community leaders and persuaded them to negotiate with the Soviets, not fight them. When he rode out on a horse to meet with the mujahedeen leaders about this, they executed him. Koofi was three years old.

Her life became one of moving from city to city, house to house. She insisted on going to school and learning English. During the worst years of the post-Soviet civil war, she braved the chaotic streets to walk to her classes.

The chapters on Taliban rule are written with a tone that ranges from depression to boiling anger. Senseless imprisonment, beatings, torture and executions marked these years. Koofi’s dreams of going to medical school were crushed. Eventually, her family managed to escape to her home province of Badakhshan, which was held by anti-Taliban forces. One can feel her relief as she is able to leave the house without a male escort and go back to school.

Having suffered through so much, Koofi now works tirelessly to relieve the suffering of others while battling the male-dominated politics of her country. In one of the letters, she tells her daughters why she takes these risks: “Please understand I would willingly sacrifice my life if it means a peaceful Afghanistan and a better future for the children of this country.”

Brian Platt wrote about Afghanistan in the March 2011 issue.

Author's photo
Brian Platt is a master of journalism student at Carleton University.
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