Top Menu

Zarifa Qazizadah: An Amazing Afghan Woman

I am unsure if she is actually the first female village chief in Afghanistan but Qazizadah certainly defies the stereotype of the “oppressed, burka-clad Afghan woman,” emerging as a committed and strong-willed politician who is actually getting things done. (h/t: MA):

First female village chief in Afghanistan defies gender roles

(AlArabiya English)

In a male-dominated society that has for years been controlled by the ultra-conservative Taliban, the emergence of the first female village chief took everyone by surprise.

After being ridiculed by male villagers for wanting to occupy political office, Zarifa Qazizadah, the mother of 15 children, managed to become the mayor of Naw Abad, a village in the northern Balkh province.

Qazizadah’s political ambition started in 2004 when she told her mocking fellow villagers that she wanted to represent them and promised to supply Naw Abad with electricity.

“I am telling the men in my village that if they have any problems, I will talk to the government on their behalf and in case of any trouble at night, I will carry my gun and come to your houses to solve the problem,” she said.

Qazizadah added that she is willing to be disguised as a man and drive a motorcycle in the middle of the night if this will enable her to help her people.

She lost the 2004 elections but kept her promise as far as connecting the village to electricity is concerned. Two years later, the same men who ridiculed Qazizadah asked her to run for head of the village and she finally succeeded.

Currently, Qazizadah’s priority is guarding the electricity supply in Naw Abad and making sure there are no power thefts in the neighborhood.

“I cannot allow this to happen,” she said. “It is against the law.”

Qazizadah also kept her promise about handling problems that occur at night – she dons men’s clothes, gets on her motorcycle, and heads to where the trouble is. According to her, disguise is better in a conservative society that would be shocked to see a woman on a motorcycle late at night.

Qazizadah also uses her own field tractor to tow cars that break down in the middle of the road or get stuck in the mud.

“She does things men are incapable of,” said Mulawi Sayed Mohamed, one of the villagers.

To make the electricity project materialize, Qazizadah sold her jewelry to be able to travel to the capital Kabul and negotiate with relevant bodies.

She also mortgaged her house in order to secure the amount required to supply the village with electricity. Five months later, she was able to supply all the houses in the village with electricity.

“Villagers only got to know what I did after they were connected. Then they started paying me back.”

Qazizadah used the money villagers paid for their electricity consumption to build a bridge that connects the village with the main road.

She also helped fund the construction of the first mosque in Naw Abad which is distinguished from all the other mosques in the country by the fact that both men and women pray in it together.

Qazizadah’s achievements look even more substantial when seen against the backdrop of her circumstances. The 50-year-old mayor was married at the age of 10 and had her first child at the age of 15. She lived for years with her husband in a remote village where she was “nothing but a servant” as she puts it.

When the Taliban took over, she moved with her family to Mazar-e-Sharif where she started community work with a vaccination campaign for children. She also started an initiative to teach children to read and write.

Qazizadah, now the grandmother of 36 children, is also head of the Women’s Council in the village and holds regular meetings for female villagers whom she advises to follow in her footsteps and teaches means of self-empowerment.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

, , , , , , ,

  • ali

    Yeah rawa is a secular orginization that opposes sharia law. I’m not a supporter of them in ANY WAY.Any Muslim who knows about Islam would understand what Islam is and what it isn’t. There’s plenty of Islamic groups that put their lives in danger to promote womens rights yet they get ignored. Rawa has done NOTHING significant at all.

  • DrM


    Jazakallah Khair for the corrections. I really do appreciate it. Hell of a lot more accurate then what Quacky has posted.

  • RDS

    @MC: She didn’t have 15 kids, she had her first child at 15 years old.

    She does however, have 36 grandchildren. No matter how you look at it, she’s a strong woman, in many sense of the word.

  • ZAI

    @ Quacks & Frauds:

    Actually Dr. M is right in essence…
    He’s wrong w/ some of the details, but that’s only because he’s not Afghan and doesn’t know nuances and distinctions that almost anybody but an Afghan would get wrong.

    RAWA is definitely a traitorous organization. They did not help the Soviets as Dr.Maxtor said, but that’s only because they were busy competing w/ the Soviets and Khalaq and Parcham Afghan Communist parties to implement their OWN Communist agenda. RAWA’s founder Mina and her husband were supporters of ‘Shola ye Jawed’ ( Eternal Flame) a MAOIST Communist group. Infact, lot of people suspect her husband was it’s leader. The group was exiled in 1969 and already in exile in Pakistan working for it’s ISI by 1973 and launching raids against the Daoud Khan government.

    After the Soviet invasion they splintered into many groups, including Setam e Milli, which abducted US ambassador Spike Dubs and attemped to extort both the US government and Soviets. Dubs was killed in a Soviet raid against the kidnappers and group disappeared after that, but RAWA soon emerged from it’s philosophy. Their agenda is replete with Shola’i talking points and philosophy and frankly they have close to zero support amongst most Afghans. They’re seen as no different from the more prominent Khalqis and Parchamis and despised by most people in the country and frankly the cultish reverence they have for their founder Mina is pretty creepy.

    No doubt they make some good points like the need to end warlordism, education for women and women’s inalienable basic rights. That doesn’t mean their overall agenda is supported by Afghans though. Taliban also did some good things like practically ending the heroin trade overnight, animal rights (ending dog and cock fights), or eliminating brigandry and lawlessness. But Afghans do not support them as represenative of the majority either.

    RAWA has an ideological agenda rooted in a communism and a history of subversion/treason that is completely rejected by Afghan people. They are not simply a human rights group. That is obfuscation and re-branding they’ve set out to do after Mina’s assassination and especially after Sept. 11th to take advantage of the situation…

  • @ DrM

    Your assertions are incorrect. RAWA is a human rights group which opposed both the Soviet and American invasions. Wiki describes its stance on the Soviet occupation as so:

    “RAWA was founded by a group of Afghan women led by Meena Keshwar Kamal. At age 21, she laid the foundations of RAWA through her work educating women. In 1979, Kamal began a campaign against Soviet forces and the Soviet-supported government of Afghanistan.”

    And its position on the American occupation:

    “RAWA is highly critical of the NATO war that began in 2001, because of the high rate of casualties among the civilian population. The organization went so far as to threaten to sue United States government for unauthorized use of four photos from their website that were used in propaganda handbills dropped on various cities in Afghanistan during the 2001 invasion.”

    And finally its efforts to promote human rights:

    “RAWA collects funds to support hospitals, schools and orphanages and still runs many projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including a project in conjunction with for orphan sponsorships.”

    RAWA has pressed European states to withdraw from Afghanistan:

    “In June 2008 Zoya (spokesman for RAWA) testified to the Human Rights Commission of the German Parliament to persuade the German government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.”


  • DrM


    RAWA are frauds as well. They are NOT a human rights organization. They supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and enjoyed patronage from them hoping to turn the nation into a Marxist state. The fact that they moved to the West and set up shop here after the collapse of the USSR, and happily accepted funding from those they once denounced as “Yankee imperialists” shows what opportunists they are. I remember clearly watching how they were doing the rounds on US cable networks after 9/11 allowing themselves to be used for propaganda efforts. They are hypocritical scum.
    Afghanistan doesn’t need the Taliban or anti-religion secular zealots.

  • As with this Afghan feminist, the torchbearers of human rights are reformers like RAWA who live among the poor and try to amend things by working with Muslims instead of selling tabloid stories to rightwing audiences like Wafa Sultan and her sob sisters. Look up the heroic efforts of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) who as well as educating girls and pressing for human rights since the 1980s when Afghanistan enjoyed a secular state which gave women the vote and banned religion from the public sphere, have opposed the US bombing of their country along with female parliamentarians like Malalai Joya and anti-Taliban commanders like Abdul Haq.

    These are the people on whom we should lavish our respect, not self-seeking liars and frauds like Ayaan Hirsi Ali who’s concern for her fellow Somali women took the form of trying to end their migration to Europe. Disgusting. How do these charlatans fool anybody?

    By the way, can someone advise me please on how to embed links in my comments? I would also like to know how to use the quote function. God, I feel like a neolithic man.

  • Ali

    Well done to her for becoming village leader, but she shouldnt support the invaders puppet government

  • Arman


  • MC

    If she gave birth to 15 kids, she can do anything.

  • Steve

    A good read.

  • Khalid

    Muslim women in Afghanistan are growing ba!!l$

    There getting pretty sick of Taliban terrorist abuse and are furthering steps to stop them.

  • Umayr

    I don’t know there is a hadith prohibiting women from being political leaders. Women can be community leaders and ecucators like the prophet’s wives but not rulers of a nation.

  • mindy1

    Good for her, I wish my representatives had some of her drive to do the right thing.

  • Mooneye,

    Zarifa Qazizadah, you go girl!

Powered by Loon Watchers