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A personal journey for nation building

January 22nd, 2020
topic:Democracy
by:Shadi Khan Saif
located in:Afghanistan
tags:Afghanistan, Fawzia Koofi, human rights, Taliban, women's rights

Fawzia Koofi has embarked on treacherous drive to empower Afghan women as grim uncertainties hover over her conservative country.

In an exclusive interview with FairPlanet, Koofi, the exceptional and pioneering female player in the nascent democracy in Afghanistan, shared the underlining vision of her newly established party-cum-movement, Movement of Change for Afghanistan.

FairPlanet: You have been at the forefront of parliamentary politics and personally quite successful in your constituency – the northern Badakhshan province bordering Tajikistan – by repeatedly winning a seat there. What motivated you to set-up your own party?

Fawzia Koofi: It was initially designed as a political movement actually, when I planned and wished to run in the presidential polls in 2014. Back then, we established Movement of Change for Afghanistan to dream and strive for many steps forward with a female head of state. But, I was disqualified for being too young back then to run for the top post.

What has changed since? You have also attended a couple of informal peace talks with the Taliban insurgents in Moscow and Doha how has that experience been?

Fawzia Koofi: Back then, and even now, there has been no political party with a leader or the majority of its members being women. Now, with the peace talks gaining momentum, there is a greater need to raise women’s voices for their hard-earned rights and liberties to be protected and promoted.

In the absence of a properly registered political party, one can face an array of legal glitches. So, the first thing we did last month was to get our Movement of Change for Afghanistan registered as a political party to evade any unwarranted legal pressure. We have representatives in 24 provinces [out of a total of 34 provinces]. The general feedback has far been quite of a mix, positive and negative. I welcome criticism because when everyone is praising and appreciating you that mean something is not right. Constructive criticism is essential to keep us under-check and up on our toes.

Was the negative criticism mainly because of your gender or your political agenda?

The feedback was generally not very negative regarding my gender, but many criticised me for my ‘political character’. But, I am absolutely certain that when our party becomes stronger, my gender would be in the spot light and targeted. In all these years, I have been attacked in many ways, I faced character and physical assassination attempts many times, and as a party we are expecting more criticism and attacks.

In the couple of meetings when you joined group of other Afghan politicians to talk to the Taliban insurgents, what did you stand for?

There is a unique consensus in Afghanistan for peace, unlike in the past when various forces worried the talks would undermine their interests. The recently restarted talks between the Taliban and the US is an opportunity for Afghans to unite and step forward to take the lead. I have told ZAL (Zalmay Khalilzad – U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation) to simultaneously help start the intra-Afghan talks with the and US-Taliban talks because I believe if Washington alone agrees with the Taliban on a peace deal, it is going to be extremely difficult to convince the Taliban on lowering their expectations and respect the Afghan side in second round. Sometimes, politicians and western media evaluates Afghan women only in comparison to the Taliban regime, but the reality is we have had female ministers and parliamentarians even before the Taliban. We were and we are progressive and open-minded people, and strive to stand for that.

Personally, you have also paid sacrifices in Afghanistan with many members of your family killed and arrested over the past many years. How optimistic are you for that vicious cycle to end?

First of all, there no one in Afghanistan that has been immune to the disasters of the ongoing war in the past four decades or so. But, I do not want to stick and remain in the past. We really need to move forward, think about the past and ensure no more lives are lost in the future instead of just mourning over what we have lost already. And, I am certain positive changes would come sooner or later.

Article written by:
Shadi-Khan-Saif-1
Shadi Khan Saif
Author, Contributing Editor
Afghanistan
Koofi, the exceptional and pioneering female player in the nascent democracy in Afghanistan.
"My Party was initially designed as a political movement actually, when I planned and wished to run in the presidential polls in 2014."
"There is a unique consensus in Afghanistan for peace, unlike in the past when various forces worried the talks would undermine their interests."