Letters to my Daughters author Fawzia Koofi speaks candidly about her struggles
Throughout her life, Fawzia Koofi created positive from the negative, but in return, the good times in her life were always followed by intolerable, bad times.
Her book, Letters to my Daughters, is an amazing and heartbreaking story of one woman’s journey through her life in Afghanistan, the home country she loves.
“By writing this book, I wanted to give the readers a sense of how it is to be a woman in Afghanistan and live through the hardships suffered from civil war, rocket attacks, rape, any other violence,” says Koofi, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament. “My story is only one of many unheard stories of women in Afghanistan whose dreams are to become doctors or teachers and to have a better future, and at least be treated as human beings.”
Each chapter in this compelling book ends with a letter to her two daughters — Shaharzad, who is turning 13 later this month, and 11-year-old Shuhra — in which she explains why she is willing to risk her life for them and their future in the country she continues to fight for.
“What most people know of Afghanistan is that it is a country that produces war, it produces terrorism and it produces Taliban,” she says. “What you don’t see is the other face of Afghanistan, which is culture, values of relationships and very nice people in a time you really need them to be nice.”
Letters to my Daughters is full of the stories of support that Koofi received during her greatest times of need from some of the most unlikely sources. She tells of a taxi driver who risked his life to drive her to visit her husband, Hamid, in prison and writes of a Taliban soldier who showed compassion for her family when he agreed to stay overnight as they waited for a guarantee to secure his release.
“Even today, as a single parent, I leave my children behind to travel for my career as a member of parliament and my extended family take care of my daughters,” Koofi says. “These are the values of our culture that I want to share.”
In the last parliamentary election in September 2010, Koofi received more votes than any other woman, and in an official ranking of candidates she got the 10th highest number of votes of all MPs.
“On one hand I have the great pleasure of having the support of my people,” she says, “but in the meantime my challenges increase because those losing power insult you morally, try to stop your projects and they create security problems for you.”
Koofi continues to work for women’s and children’s rights in her country. “I have started working on the law on violence against women and started working on the family law,” she adds.
She has also been using her position in parliament to speak out about corruption issues in government and to try to improve human rights in prisons.
While in Canada to promote her book, Koofi is also speaking out about her fear that Afghanistan will soon become forgotten to the rest of the world.
“You withdraw your troops next month and if you leave Afghanistan without properly finishing this war, the fear is that Afghanistan will fall to the hands of the Taliban once again,” she says.
Koofi is always in danger. She fears she may be assassinated by people who want to silence her and stop the progress of women’s rights in her war-torn, corrupt country. “If there is no protection for me as a public figure, then there is no protection of the ordinary woman as well.”
For now, she holds onto hope, not only for her daughters but also for all Afghan women.