Two months after Taliban took power in Afghanistan, one former parliament member, candidate for presidency and nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize is visiting the United Nations as a woman exile, but not as a representative for her government.
Fawzia Koofi, a journalist with The Associated Press, stated that humanitarian aid to Afghanistan should be conditional on participation of women in its distribution and allow Afghans to travel freely into and out of Afghanistan.
Aid should not be politicized. It is important that women are involved at every stage and that they are listened to. Koofi was part of a delegation representing Afghan women who visited the U.N. to demand that member states do not compromise on equality and inclusion in Afghanistan.
Koofi has lived in Europe since August when she fled Kabul. She spoke of the pain of being separated from her country, two decades of hope lost and the search for permanent residence for her and her daughters.
She told the AP that this is not an Afghanistan she fought for. “The Afghanistan I was hoping for was that (the) women shouldn’t suffer as much during my childhood, during which (the) Taliban overtook me as a teenager.”
“I wanted other girls at least to have the option of choosing the school they want. Their choices are now limited to the rooms they choose to spend their day in. This is truly heartbreaking.
Koofi was a former deputy speaker in parliament and one of four women who participated in negotiations to reach a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban. This deal eventually failed. After the Taliban signed a peace deal with the United States in Feb 2020, she described how the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate changed.
She said that “after they signed the agreement they were more extreme and were more interested in buying time, preferring to use a military strategy.”
In the summer, Taliban fighters used this strategy to seize province after province until reaching Kabul in August. The Taliban invaded Kabul after Ashraf Ghani, then the president, fled. This panicked many people who opposed their rule and feared their lives.
Koofi stated that this was the final blow to a political settlement that many had hoped would consolidate the achievements of women in education, employment, and the legal system.
She also blamed “world leaders”, seeming to point the finger at U.S. President Joe Biden. She said that the United States, as a superpower has a great responsibility and should be held responsible.
Biden stated that he was bound to the Trump administration’s timeline and that the U.S. cannot continue to expand its military presence in Afghanistan and expect different results.
Koofi stated that she believes the Taliban takeover and the end of peace negotiations could have been avoided. She paused as she was overcome with emotion and said, “I mean every day we are actually dealing this trauma.”
She said that her former female colleagues in parliament, the female judges who used the Taliban to sentence journalists and others who opposed the group, are now afraid.
She also said that the Taliban should be held responsible for their promises to women that they would be able work and go to school “within Islam’s principles.”
Koofi says she receives hundreds of voice and text messages daily from Afghan women, hoping to help them.
She said, “They are very angry…that I am not with them in these difficult times.” “They keep sending me messages, particularly from the women, to express their anger at my inaction. They say, “We need you to be with us on the streets of Kabul,” and they are correct.”
She sends photos of herself to remind her of the women she used to work alongside and who were the breadwinners for their families.
She said that it was difficult psychologically to deal with this and to adapt and accept the changes. “Not just for me, but for all the women and men I’ve met over the past two months since I left Kabul.”
Koofi, aged 22 and 23, is focusing on resolving her residency status. She declined to give the exact location for security reasons.
Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, approximately 100,000 Afghans fled the country. However, many were not able to flee the final chaotic airlifts. According to the U.N. development agency, 38 million Afghans are still living in poverty.
Koofi warned of the threat posed by the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh in Arabic, and called for renewed negotiations. She stated that stability is not only achieved through the cessation or reduction of violence but also through strong and inclusive institutions.
She stated, “If we believe that one military extremist group (which is Taliban) is going to defeat Daesh, it’s not going that way.”
“You must continue to empower the country, empower people, educate them and support the political process.”