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Shukria Barakzai

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The Invincible Afghan

Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai famously said, Our parliament is a collection of lords. Warlords, drug lords, crime lords.” Barakzai grew up in a pre-Taliban Afganistan, playing football and volleyball, writing adolescent fiction and eventually choosing to study geophysics. When the Taliban came to power, Barakzai’s parents and siblings fled Afghanistan like many others. She and her husband decided to stay prepared for a dystopic existance. In 1999, Barakzai was flogged by the Taliban for visiting a doctor without a male ‘escort’. Barakzai responded to this by an brave act of resistance: she started several underground schools for children, convinced that education would empower people. She also founded an aid society which became the only source of medical care for thousands of Afghan women.

When the Taliban fell in November 2001, Barakzai first gave away her chador. She then plunged into public life full-throttle. She resumed her education. She started a weekly newspaper for women called‘Ain- e-Zan’. She became a member of Afghanistan’s Constitutuonal Renewing Commission. She fought elections and became one of Afghanistan’s 71 female MPs (out of 249). In post-Taliban Afghanistan, she has chosen a complex, non-dogmatic position. She does not blame the Taliban for all of Afghanistan’s ills. She continues to fight for women’s rights (receiving death threats in the bargain) and is critical of the incestuous power elite of Kabul. She intends to run for presidential elections in 2014.

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