An affecting inside look at the making of an Afghan woman leader, in spite of the repression by traditional Islamic society and the Taliban.
As her father’s 19th child out of a total of 23, and to his second wife out of eight, Koofi learned from an early age that girls were valued very little in the harsh, mountainous, rural Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, where her father was a tribal leader and member of Parliament. In 1978, when Koofi was nearly four, her father was shot by the mujahideen, forcing the author, her mother and other relatives to flee and take refuge with her older brothers. Eventually her mother allowed her to go to school, the first girl in her family to do so. Koofi studied medicine as civil war tore apart the country. With the arrival of the Taliban in 1996, the author’s dreams of going to medical school were eclipsed. Her brother, the chief of police, went into hiding, and her own new husband was periodically imprisoned. “No more progression,” she writes of this desperate period, “only the darkness of the uneducated men who now ruled our land.” Returned to the safety of her home province, her husband dying of tuberculosis and her two young daughters needing care, Koofi gravitated toward teaching English and community-outreach work. By 2003, with the Taliban gone and hope restored in her country, she garnered the support of her male family members to be the one to represent her district in the new Afghan Parliament. Her election and success fighting corruption and promoting women’s issues have set her up as a presidential contender—and a strong leader to watch. In her final chapter, the author offers advice for the international powers overseeing her war-town nation—e.g., do not withdraw “before the job is finished.”
With moving letters to her daughters opening each chapter, Koofi delivers an important message.