Tag Archives: Women

A New Afghanistan

The younger generation of Afghan politicians–people like Fawzi Koofi, Waheed Omer, Amrullah Salleh etc– give me tremendous hope for the country.

Here is a excerpt from Fawzia Koofi’s recent profile in Ms. Magazine:

Representing the distant Badakhshan province, this single mother of two young girls is a tenacious voice in the national discourse. Whether debating electoral fraud on television or revealing abuses in the prison system in Parliament, her passion and unbending civility stands out as a rare combination in the country’s infant democracy. She won the second highest number of votes from her province in the recent parliamentary elections, only 250 behind the leading candidate (a former commander), and a resounding 7,000 votes ahead of her closest male competitor. In a country where women largely make it to the Parliament because of a gender quota, the election results speak to Ms. Koofi’s popularity. At the local level she has championed the building of a highway from Kabul to Faizabad. At the national level, through her agenda and personal example, she has worked tirelessly to achieve substantial women participation in national politics.

To read the rest of the articleMs. Magazine:  Fawzia Koofi: Making a New Afghanistan For Her Daughters

Waheed Omer, the current spokesperson to President Karzai, is an impressively well-rounded character. Well educated, with a masters from York University, Omer is a poet, a writer, and a masterful orator. A former civil society activist– founder of Young Leaders Forum– Omer has spent the past 6 years in different capacities in the government. He founded the Government Media and Information Center. He was a major factor in Karzai reelection: as his campaign spokesperson, he managed the local media very well. Equally fluent in Dari and Pashto, his television debates were critical in defending Karzai’s image despite being a position of great weakness. His proficiency in both languages showed Karzai as a national figure while Abdullah’s representatives stuck to one language, Dari.

But what is most impressive about Omer is his mix of energy, eloquence, and civility that he brings to his politics.

We need more Fawzia Koofis and Waheed Omers to step up for the sake of a new Afghanistan.

Back From Kabul: impressions

Smog in Kabul (Image: FRE/RL)


I recently got back from three weeks in Kabul.  Here are first two impressions. More to come later.

1. Until last week, it had not rained or snowed in Kabul. For the Kabulis, if nothing else hurts them the environment will. Pollution in this  small city is at extreme degrees. During the day, particularly in the afternoons, visibility beyond 20 meters is impossible due to dust and smoke. Quite a depressing situation. To imagine that people on the streets breath this air 24/7 is a dark reality. Cars are abundant on the street, vast construction creates tremendous dust, and on top of all that you have at least 2-3 stoves in every home that burn material ranging from wood and coal to diesel and trash.

2. The extent of women involvement in public life is much more visible. One small example speaks for it: at the airport, you see as many young female workers doing the routine security checks as male workers. Most of them in their 20s, a representation of the vast potential in Afghanistan. I hear that close to 60% of the country is between the ages of 18-35, which is quite a heartening statistic.

As dusk took over Kabul Airport and I walked up the stairs to board the plane, there were workers at the bottom of the stairs, checking the boarding passes one last time. One of them was a petite and pretty young lady, wearing a lime fluorescent jacket on top of her blue uniform. Her hands in the pockets of the her jacket, she paced about with an air of tremendous confidence. It was a fantastic little scene, very telling of some of the progress in the country.