Fawzia Koofi

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Fawzia Koofi
فوزیه کوفی
Fawzia Koofi MP, Afghanistan - Chatham House 2012.jpg
Koofi speaking at Chatham House in 2012
Vice President of the National Assembly
Incumbent
Assumed office
2005
Member of the Wolesi Jirga for Badakhshan
Incumbent
Assumed office
2005
Personal details
Born Fawzia Koofi
1975
Badakhshan, Afghanistan
Children Two
Residence Kabul, Afghanistan
Alma mater Preston University
Occupation Politician, rights activist
Religion Islam

Fawzia Koofi (Persian: فوزیه کوفی‎) (born in 1975 or 1976)[1][2] is an Afghan politician and women's rights activist. Originally from Badakhshan province, she is currently serving as a Member of Parliament in Kabul and is the Vice President of the National Assembly. She has also announced her intention to run as a presidential candidate in the 2014 elections in Afghanistan.

Biography[edit]

Youth and education[edit]

Born into a polygamous family of seven women, Koofi was first rejected by her parents because of her sex. Her father, a member of Parliament, had married a younger woman, and her mother sought to have a son to maintain her husband's affection. The day Koofi was born, she was left out to die in the sun.[3]

She managed to persuade her parents to send her to school, making her the only girl in the family to attend school. She subsequently graduated from Preston University in Pakistan with a master's degree in business and management.[4] Her father was a Member of Parliament (MP) for 25 years but died at the end of the first Afghan war (1979–1989), killed by Mujahideens.[1]

Koofi originally wanted to become a physician, but chose to study political science and become a member of UNICEF. She worked closely with vulnerable groups such as Internally Displaced People (IDP) and marginalized women and children, and served as a child protection officer for the organization from 2002 to 2004.[4]

Political career[edit]

Then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the speakers of the Afghan Parliament, Fawzia Koofi and Sayed Hamed Gailani in 2006.

Koofi began her political career in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban, promoting the right to education of girls in her "Back to school" campaign.

From 2002 to 2004 Fawzia Koofi worked with UNICEF as a Child Protection Officer to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse.[4]

In the parliamentary elections in 2005, she was elected to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly, for the Badakhshan district in the northeastern part of the country and served as the Deputy Speaker of the lower house whose president also carries the title of Vice President of the National Assembly.[1][4] She was the first female Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament in the history of Afghanistan. She was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of 2010 and then elected MP from a total of 69 female members of the Assembly.

In Parliament, she has focused primarily on women's rights, but she also has legislated for the building of roads to connect remote villages to educational and health facilities.[5] In 2009 Ms. Koofi drafted the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) legislation.[6] Signed as a decree, the draft needed to be voted on in order to become an official document of the constitution. It was presented to Parliament in 2013 and was blocked by the conservative members who claimed articles of the law went against Islam. However, the law is being implemented in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan and court cases are being decided based on the law.[5]

She has survived several assassination attempts, including one on March 8, 2010, near the town of Tora Bora.[7]

Koofi intended to run for President of Afghanistan in the 2014 Afghan presidential election on a platform of equal rights for women, promoting universal education, and the opposition to political corruption,[8][9] but she said in July 2014 that the election commission moved the registration date to October 2013 and as a result she did not qualify for the minimum age requirement of 40 years of old.[10]

She was re-elected as a member of Parliament in 2014 but no longer serves as the deputy speaker. She currently serves as Chairperson of Afghanistan’s Women, Civil Society and Human Rights Commission.[11]

Women's rights engagement[edit]

Koofi has made it a priority to defend women's rights in Afghanistan.[1]

Some of the key women's initiatives that she has championed during her tenure as an MP include: the improvement of women's living conditions in Afghan prisons; the establishment of a commission to combat the issue of violence (especially sexual violence) against children; and the amendment of the shia personal status law.

Koofi also promoted education for women and children by advocating for access to good schools and creating opportunities for non-formal education for her constituents in Badakhshan province. While serving as Deputy Speaker in 2005, Ms. Koofi raised private funding for the construction of girls schools in remote provinces.[12] In 2009, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.[13]

In 2014, she visited students who are victims of the Taliban and encourages them to continue their education.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Koofi was married to a man named Hamid, an engineer and chemistry teacher. Her marriage was arranged, but she did not disapprove of her family's choice. Ten days after their wedding, Taliban soldiers arrested her husband and he was imprisoned. In prison he contracted tuberculosis and died shortly after his release in 2003. Koofi lives in Kabul with her two teenage daughters.[1][15]

Works[edit]

  • Fawzia Koofi (April 2011). Letters to My Daughters. Canada: Douglas & Mcintyre. ISBN 978-1-55365-876-4. 
  • Fawzia Koofi (January 3, 2012). The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future. USA: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-12067-9. 

The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future[edit]

Fawzia Koofi’s memoir, The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future, is an autobiographical memoir written by Fawzia Koofi with the aid of Nadene Ghouri.[16] Originally published under the title Letters to My Daughter,[17] this edition was published in 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan Publishers.[18] The book tells the story of Koofi’s life throughout her childhood, education, and involvement in politics. It consists of narrations about her life interspersed with letters written to her two daughters.

Synopsis[edit]

The story spans from the time of Fawzia’s birth to the near present and her growing political career. Koofi begins the book with a description of the family into which she was born. She was the nineteenth out of twenty-three of her father’s children, and the last of her mother’s children. The family practiced polygyny, Fawzia’s father having married seven women. She introduces the theme of oppression towards women, one which appears throughout the work, by describing the day of her birth. Her mother was devastated to learn that she had given birth to a “poor girl” instead of a boy who could have won back the affection of her husband. She refuses to hold Fawzia after her birth, and the baby is left outside in the sun for a full day to develop second degree sunburns.

During her introductions, Koofi also describes the political careers of her father and grandfather, who will grow to influence many of her political views. Still, she spends the majority of the beginning of the book describing the daily life of her childhood household. Fawzia’s mother, though the second wife of her husband, was the “head wife” who was responsible for keeping the household running, especially when her husband was away on political business.

Koofi then returns to the subject of politics and describes the political atmosphere of Afghanistan as a result of the USSR’s presence in the country. Having fought of the Soviets, the mujahedeen were now gaining control of the country. As Fawzia’s father travels to a political center of activity, he is killed by the mujahedeen, much to the dismay of Fawzia and her family. Soon after, the mujahedeen attempt to assassinate Fawzia’s entire family, causing her and her mother to flee from the mujahedeen-controlled area to Faizabad and then Kabul. Unfortunately, not much time passes before the mujahedeen gain control of all of Afghanistan. In Kabul, Fawzia begins to attend school, despite the negative social attitude towards female education. For safety, she also has to begin wearing a burqa outside of her home, something she does with much resentment.

At this point, Fawzia learns of her brother Muqim’s death, and the work exhibits a shift in tone, becoming darker and more mature. As the tone darkens, so do Fawzia’s surroundings as the mujahedeen abuse their power. Rapes, explosions, and gunfire become commonplace and the streets of Kabul become too dangerous to travel through safely. Even so, Fawzia refuses to stop attending school and English lessons, braving the city streets daily. At this point of the memoir, Fawzia’s support system completely changes when her mother becomes fatally ill just as Fawzia meets her future husband, Hamid. Then, the political and social system changes as well due to the invasion of the Taliban. The extremist group begins destroying historical, cultural, and educational facets of Afghanistan. They demolish schools, destroy museums, and forbid celebrations like weddings. Women are forbidden from studying or working, and they are beaten if they wear any less than a burqa. Eventually, women are forbidden from even leaving their homes if not accompanied by a muharram, or a male blood relative. After describing the horrible acts of the Taliban, Koofi remarks: “All this was supposedly in the name of God. But I do not believe these were the actions of God. They were the actions of men. And I am sure God would have turned away to weep.” Fawzia decides to relocate to another province where one of her brothers has been living to avoid the Taliban.

While away from Kabul, Hamid’s relatives approach Fawzia’s brother, Mirshakay, (because her parents are no longer alive) to ask for her hand in marriage. Despite the outrageous nature of her brother’s requirements for the engagement to occur, Hamid and his family acquire the means necessary to fulfill the requests, and the engagement becomes official. Fawzia soon makes the dangerous journey to return to Kabul.

The next section of the book focuses on Fawzia’s difficulty in trying to plan a traditional Afghani wedding celebration while under the harsh Talibani rule. Even worse, the week after Fawzia’s wedding, Talibanis invade Fawzia’s new home and arrest her husband in a search for Mirshakay, a member of the regime’s wanted persons list. Fawzia helps her brother to find a place to hide from the authorities and is overwhelmed with joy and relief when she returns home to find an unexpectedly released Hamid. Later, Mirshakay plans a journey to escape Afghanistan and seek refuge in Pakistan. Within moments, these plans are made impossible when Talibani officers burst into Fawzia’s apartment and immediately arrest Mirshakay and Hamid. Fawzia manages to earn the favor of enough men in power to result in the release of the two men, and they immediately flee to Pakistan. While there, Hamid and Mirshakay make contact with the exiled president of Afghanistan, and Fawzia and Hamid become inspired with the prospect of his potential return to power and return to Kabul. Hamid is promptly arrested again by the Taliban.

Three months pass before Fawzia succeeds in bailing Hamid out from jail, him having become very ill due to the inhumane conditions of the prison, and the two immediately travel back to Faizabad. At this point, Fawzia’s gives birth to her first daughter, begins teaching, and finds herself pregnant for a second time. Koofi’s career soon picks up, and she is asked to participate in an investigative project with the Foundation for Children. This quickly leads to positions with UNICEF and the UN, her career quickly growing as she struggles to balance her career and her duty as a caretaker for her two daughters.

The Afghanis find relief when US military forces drive the Taliban out of power in reaction to the September 11 attacks, but Fawzia’s joy turns to grief when Hamid’s illness overwhelms him and he passes away. Still, when Afghanistan holds its first democratic elections, Fawzia obtains permission from her family to run for a position as a member of parliament. Incredibly, she not only wins the seat, but through her passion and determination also obtains the position of deputy speaker, an unheard of accomplishment for a woman.

The work comes to a close with some of Koofi’s suggestions for improving her beloved homeland. She looks toward the future and her plans to run for president of Afghanistan.[18]

“Koofi’s “favored” status continues as she marries the man of her and her mother’s choosing, works as an English teacher, becomes the first Afghani woman to work for UNICEF in Afghanistan, and eventually wins the support of her family to run for a seat in Afghanistan’s new parliament.”[16]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Malbrunot, Georges (2011-02-25). "Fawzia, un défi aux talibans" (in French). Le Figaro. p. 18. 
  2. ^ The article specifies only that she is 35 years old in February 2011, it was not possible to determine whether she was born in 1975 or 1976.
  3. ^ "A 'Favored Daughter' Fights For The Women Of Afghanistan". NPR. 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Guests of First Lady Laura Bush". ABC News. January 31, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "In conversation with Fawzia Koofi member of Parliament from Badakshan"
  6. ^ "Women MP’s come together to demand equal representation"
  7. ^ Bryony Gordon (February 23, 2012). "'The Taliban want to kill me. But I am fighting for my daughters’ freedom’ Fawzia Koofi hopes to be Afghanistan’s first woman president. The Taliban are determined to stop her.". The Daily Telegraph. 
  8. ^ Graeme Woods (February 14, 2013). "Fawzia Koofi Member of Parliament, Afghanistan". theatlantic.com. 
  9. ^ "Woman of the week - Fawzia Koofi Championing feminism in a country where male-chauvinism reigns". platform51.org. March 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ Fawzia Koofi, the female politician who wants to lead Afghanistan
  11. ^ "Fawzia Koofi on Afghanistan Women's Rights Under Ashraf Ghani"
  12. ^ “900 Afghani girls need a building for their school.”
  13. ^ "Support Committee for Fawzia Koofi: Mission". fawziakoofi.org. Retrieved 2013. 
  14. ^ Fawzia Koofi on Facebook
  15. ^ Sachs, Susan (January 21, 2011). "Fawzi Koofi: The face of what Afghanistan could be". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  16. ^ a b Fawzia Koofi: The Favored Daughter
  17. ^ Women's Voices for Change
  18. ^ a b [Koofi, Fawzia, and Nadene Ghouri. The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ISBN 9780230120679]

External links[edit]