The Guardian

War took a heavy toll on her family. Now she is fighting … for Afghan democracy

Zakia Wardak is part of a wave of mostly young politicians prepared to fight powerful vested interests at the ballot box – despite all the dangers
Zakia Wardak visits a girls’ school in Kandahar: ‘If you have a seat in parliament, you can raise people’s voices.’

Zakia Wardak’s family has been fractured and diminished by long decades of war in Afghanistan. Soviet forces killed her father four decades ago, Americans seized and tortured her husband two decades later and her brother was murdered in the capital this past summer.

Yet, somehow, she has not abandoned hope. Relatives abroad begged her to join them after the latest killing. Instead, convinced that Afghanistan can still change, that the peaceful country of her childhood memories can be reclaimed, she has taken a tentative step into the dangerous, notoriously corrupt arena of Afghan politics, running for a seat in parliament.

“There’s a lot of injustice going on, particularly affecting the younger generation,” said Wardak, a successful engineer who virtually shuttered her business several years ago to focus on health and women’s rights. “If you have a seat in parliament, you can raise people’s

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