As It Happens·Q&A

Afghan peace negotiator says she won't let an assassination attempt stop her

Women's rights activist and former Afghan parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi says she still wants to attend upcoming peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Koofi was chased and shot on Friday as she drove back to Kabul with her daughter.

Fawzia Koofi still plans to attend peace talks with the Taliban after taking a bullet to the shoulder

Former Afghan member of parliament Fawzia Kofi says she plans to attend peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

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Fawzia Koofi says she won't let getting shot stop her from attending the upcoming peace talks with the Taliban.

Koofi is a women's rights activist and former parliamentarian who is part of a team representing the Afghan government in upcoming peace negotiations with the Taliban.

She is recovering at home after being shot in the shoulder on Friday, which also caused damage to her hand. She says doctors have removed the bullet fragments, but say she will have to wait for the wound to heal before they can address her hand injury.

Afghan officials have called the shooting a failed assassination attempt.

In February, the U.S. brokered a deal with the Taliban that would facilitate the withdrawal of U.S and NATO forces from the region and bring the Afghan government and Taliban together to negotiate peace.

The deal included the release of prisoners on both sides. However, on Monday the Afghan government announced it won't release hundreds of Taliban prisoners until more of its own soldiers are freed.

A date has not been set for peace talks, but officials could call for them as soon as this week. As It Happens guest host Helen Mann spoke to Koofi from her home in Kabul. Here is part of their conversation.

Could you take us back to Friday? ... Tell us how it all unfolded. 

I went to a province which is a few kilometres away from Kabul to pay my condolences to some of my political friends who are in our political party.

I was in a car with my daughter. We got, I think, almost close to Kabul [when] two Corolla cars were chasing us from a certain part of the road and [we were] getting close ... to a place which was more crowded.

Before we get to that place, one of the Corolla cars actually blocked our road and then the other one starts shooting. So the first bullet got to my shoulder and hand.

Instead of responding to these shootings, we kind of ran away. And the second bullet reached the car. So I think that the other bullets ... they missed because we managed to run away. 

Why me? What did I do wrong that these people hate me to the extent that they want to kill me?- Fawzia Koofi, peace negotiator 

What went through your mind in those moments? 

I did not realize that I was shot in my shoulder. After a few seconds, I saw the bleeding and then I saw that my hand cannot move. And I told my daughter, who [was] sitting in the car with me, and the security guard that I got a bullet shot.

It took one hour before I reached ... the hospital in Kabul. The whole time what crossed my mind was basically what my daughter was telling me. You know, she was extremely sad and devastated. And she was telling me to keep my eyes open. And she was telling me to stay alive. She was telling me how much she needed me. And that kind of kept my mind so busy that I did not even [go] out of conscious[ness] because my mind was always busy with her, trying to process what she [was saying].

The first thing that happened in those moments is [you think of] your loved ones. So I have two daughters and I'm a single parent, as you know.

But of course, the second thing was that, you know, why me? I have done nothing wrong to this country. I have always tried to be an agent of goodwill for my country. Why me? What did I do wrong that these people hate me to the extent that they want to kill me?

Fawzia Koofi poses with her two daughters in Kabul on May 3, 2012. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

What do you think the answer to that is? What do you think is behind this? And who do you think? Because the Taliban is denying that they were involved in the attack. 

The security officials came several times to the hospital to complete their investigations.... I'm now hoping that they will come up with an answer, because it's not about me as an individual. We have started [to fight] for women's rights in Afghanistan, post-Taliban regime.

I think we have set some examples for the younger generation. The younger generation really look at us and want to see how, you know, we can help ... the progress of the country. If these voices like us and women like us are silenced, I think we do not give a good message of motivation for the younger generation.

Whoever's behind this is — be it Daesh [ISIS], be it, you know, the armed groups, militias, whoever the enemies are, or even the Taliban — they want to give the younger generation a message that the women of Afghanistan have no space.

So have you concluded pretty much that you were targeted because you are a woman? 

Because I'm a woman, because probably I have a vocal voice, because I have served this country to bring justice, equality, because I have served to empower women.

And that is not favoured by many groups who have not seen such a face of such an image of an Afghan woman. And therefore, they feel they are losing power every day. 

Are you confident in what lies ahead for the negotiations? 

I cannot say really anything on behalf of Taliban. What I can say is I am sure and I have confidence that the ... negotiations will start hopefully soon because we need to do that. There is no alternative.

I have kind of almost lost my right hand in addition to whatever else that I have lost in the war. But I still want to go to these talks with this kind of injured arm, because this is a symbol of how desperate we are for peace.

People were queuing in the hospital to come and see me. These people are thirsty [for] peace. We have to really hurry up. There is no time for delay. 

I wanted to ask you about your daughter, because you described her keeping you going on that ride to the hospital. And obviously, this would be pretty traumatizing. How is she doing? 

She was traumatized ... and she still is. But I think she has grown up with me. She has the blood in her, the gene, and she is strong.

Of course, she was crying from the time that ... she saw blood and I was injured. She was crying until the hospital. And when we got to the hospital, she was relieved that at least now I'm in the doctor's hand.

But of course, it's a life of children in Afghanistan, and many of Afghanistan, that face these kinds of traumas every day. Every day, they lose their family members.

And it's not just about numbers. It's about human beings with all the dreams, with all the wishes, with all the talents that we lose.


Written by Lito Howse. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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