Fawzia Koofi is an Afghan parliamentarian and women’s rights advocate. She has been the target of several Taliban assassination attempts because of her activism. Koofi is the author of Letters to My Daughters: A Memoir.
With a presidential election scheduled for 2014, Afghan women hope that even if our situation doesn’t improve, the gains we have made so far will at least not be lost.
We hope that the international community helps us have a fair election and continues to work with us toward a better and more equal society.
We are a nation born after the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. This is a new age for my country, and we are all trying hard to keep it going forward. The past 12 years were not the best time for Afghan women, but they have been better than all Afghanistan’s previous regimes. We have achieved many valuable goals.
Afghans have disagreed about the role Western forces should play in our country, but the majority favour having a NATO presence in Afghanistan for a longer time. The National Grand Council (Loya Jirga) was created from local committees to discuss the security agreement between Afghanistan and United States that will determine under what conditions American troops may stay in Afghanistan after 2014.
Tribal elders and other Afghan leaders on the Loya Jirga recommended that President Hamid Karzai sign the pact to ensure American soldiers stay. So far [as of late last week] he has not. But the Loya Jirga’s endorsement demonstrates that our people fear the future and don’t want the international community to abandon us in our struggle against the radical Taliban, al-Qaeda and other extremist foreign organizations aiming to hold our nation hostage.
I spoke with many people who came to my house to visit me these past few weeks. I asked them why they think we still need NATO and other Western countries to stay in Afghanistan. They said our neighbouring countries—namely Pakistan and Iran—cannot be trusted. Pakistan and Iran are not our enemies. But they don’t want what is best for Afghans, and therefore cannot help bring peace to Afghanistan. The most obvious example is Pakistan’s support for the ruthless Taliban.
Between such neighbours, we are powerless to maintain lasting security and peace. To become more independent, we need the world to work with us and give us more time to stand on our own feet.
We are facing two main challenges. One is our security. The other is our upcoming presidential election. Our nation deserves peace and justice. I am hopeful President Karzai, who is constitutionally forbidden to run again, will not interfere in favour of any candidate.
People expect a peaceful and fair transition. This will be challenging. But I am sure President Karzai will allow our country to start a new phase with a new leader.