Despite the target on her back, she persists, commuting to work on the dangerous roads between Maidan Shahr and the capital, Kabul, where she has moved several times in the past year for security reasons.
“I want to live as a champion,” she said in an interview Wednesday after being honored at the State Department with an International Women of Courage Award presented by first lady Melania Trumpand Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “I want to die as a champion.”
Their stories “humble and inspire us all,” said Pompeo, who recently returned from Qatar, where he witnessed the signing of an agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
The agreement calls for a drawdown of U.S. troops and a prisoner release in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to sever ties with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and enter into peace talks with the Afghan government.
“Women of my generation have not forgotten the reign of the Taliban, and we are, as always, worried for the future,” she said after turning to face Pompeo and the first lady. “Therefore, let me ask for your continued support to ensure that Afghan peace process does not erase the gains that have been made since the dark days of the Taliban regime.”
U.S. officials have said they expect groups representing all segments of Afghan society, including women, to have a role in peace talks they hope will start this month. Ghafari said Afghan women who have survived decades of war must be among the parties.
Ghafari said she was grateful that she has supportive parents — a father who is a colonel in the Afghan special forces and a mother who is a physician — and an equally supportive fiance.
“It’s not only Zarifa,” she said, adding, “It’s a red line for Afghan women. We will stand our ground. And we will fight always for our rights.”
She recognizes the danger she will face on returning to Afghanistan but considers it her responsibility to speak up.
“At least if I die, no one will say, ‘She was not someone who did great,’ ” she said. “I want the next generation to remember me as a good person, at least as someone who could make at least a change, at least could talk of the truth. That’s why I’m talking.”