Fawzia Koofi (website, Twitter) is an Afghan Member of Parliament and Vice President of the Afghan National Assembly. She is also running for President of Afghanistan in the planned April 2014 elections, and would be the first female president in Afghan history. She has a remarkable backstory: Born as the nineteenth of her father's twenty-three children, Koofi was left to die from exposure as a baby girl. She survived and witnessed during her childhood father's and brother's deaths from political unrest. She was forced to leave medical school when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996 and banned the education of women and girls, and, soon after her own daughters were born, her husband died from tuberculosis he contracted while a political prisoner in a Taliban jail. After the new Afghan government was formed after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, Koofi ran for and won a seat in the Afghan parliament. She currently represents the Badakshan region in northeastern Afghanistan and is a leading advocate for the rights of women and girls. Koofi has also written a recently published memoir, The Favored Daughter, about her life and her journey into politics.
Koofi delivered the closing remarks at the Harvard Women's Law Association's annual conference. (Special thanks to the association's president and conference organizer, Stephanie Davidson, for arranging the interview.) I spoke with Koofi at her snowed-in hotel about the current state of Afghanistan and the challenges facing her country. Apologies for the background noise during part of the interview. The hotel's HVAC system was bravely trying (but largely failing) to deal with winter storm Nemo.
P.S. If Koofi's backstory hasn't convinced you of her mettle, the following should: I asked her about what she thought of the over-two-feet of snow Nemo dumped on Cambridge. She was unimpressed (but diplomatic about it) --- turns out that many parts of Afghanistan routinely gets three meters.
P.P.S.: Koofi was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Wednesday. You can watch the video here or below: