Fawzia Koofi’s The Favored Daughter reviewed by Guadamour

by Guadamour
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
March 7, 2012

Fawzia Koofi starts her autobiographical book, The Favored Daughter (Palgrave MacMillan 2012), by offering true insight into growing up as a girl in a large Afghanistan family, the 19th child of 23, and the last child of the second wife of a man who ended up marrying seven women in the Islamic tradition, many of the marriages for political and tactical reasons to form a dominate family kinship and political network. Remarkably enough, Koofi, left outside to die because she was a girl, survived, and because she survived, became the “Favored Daughter.” She and her mother, the dominate wife of the seven, persevered, and Koofi received a college education, and may well become the next president of Afghanistan. This is a true book of Women’s Liberation, and the truth that the expansion of education and exposure to outside influences can free one from the stranglehold of a confining religious tradition. This book shows how family kinship relationships hold a country as diverse and as large as Afghanistan together.

Where the books fails is in its close structure to personal biography, and in the basic naiveté of the author. Instead of weaving the history of Afghanistan and the outside influences on the country into her life story, Koofi, gives an incomplete and separate history and does not show how outside forces influence. Koofi writes:

I only vaguely knew who the Taliban were. I knew they were religious students who had formed a political movement, but didn’t know what they stood for. During the years we were fighting the Russians, the Afghan Mujahideen had been joined by thousands of Arab, Pakistani, and Chechen fighters. They had been funded to help the battle against the Soviets by other countries such as the United states, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Each of those countries had their own vested interests and political reasons in helping us. While their help in our battle was initially welcomed, these fighters brought with them a fundamentalist version of Islam that was new to Afghanistan, Wahhabism.

Wahhabism originated in Saudi Arabia and is a particularly conservative branch of Sunni Islam. Madrassas (religious schools) in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan promoted this type of Islam to young Afghan men, many of them vulnerable refugees barely out of childhood.

But there was a lot of misinformation in those days. Some people in Kabul even thought the Taliban were the communists coming back in new guise. But whoever they really were, I could not and would not believe they, or anyone, had beaten the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen had defeated the entire might of the Red Army, so how could a few students possibly defeat the men who had done that?

Considering that the Taliban would basically murder her husband and the father of her two daughters, it is inconceivable that Koofi does not go into who funded and brought the havoc of the Taliban to Afghanistan in greater detail, especially when one realizes Koofi may well be the next president of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, this easy to read book is of importance for anyone trying to understand the current situation in Afghanistan, and a predicament which appears will embroil the United States and NATO for years to come.


I Ain’t Nobody’s Fool, Not Today by Daniel N. White (review of the same book)