Ahmad Shah Massoud was an Afghan military commander and politician. From 1979 to 1989, he played an important role in the Soviet-Afghan War, where he served as a powerful guerrilla commander. He was nicknamed Lion of Panjshir for his role in the war. Massoud was assassinated by Al-Qaeda in 2001. His death anniversary is observed as a national holiday in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Najibullah was an Afghan politician. From 1987 to 1992, he served as the president of Afghanistan before resigning in 1992. Throughout his tenure as president and leader of Afghanistan, Najibullah preferred nationalism over socialism, abolished the one-party state, and made Islam an official religion. In 1996, he was publicly hanged by the Taliban after they captured Kabul.
Afghan politician, academic, and economist Ashraf Ghani is currently serving as the president of Afghanistan. This is his second term. Previously, he held the office of minister of finance. Prior to joining politics, he was a professor of anthropology at numerous institutions. He is also one of the co-founders of the NGO the Institute for State Effectiveness.
Rula F. Saadah Ghani is the wife of Ashraf Ghani who served as fifth President of Afghanistan until his government was overthrown by the Taliban on August 15, 2021. The Ghani family fled from Afghanistan on the same day. Rula advocated for women’s rights as the First Lady and was named to the Time 100 list by Time magazine in 2015.
Afghan politician and women's rights activist Fawzia Koofi is the incumbent Member of the Wolesi Jirga for Badakhshan since 2005. She became the first woman in history of Afghanistan who served as Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament. She held office as Vice President of National Assembly and presently serves as Chairperson of Afghanistan's Women, Civil Society and Human Rights Commission.
Niloofar Rahmani is the first woman in Afghanistan’s history who became fixed-wing Air Force aviator. She is Afghan Air Force’s first female pilot since 2001 fall of Taliban. Despite receiving death threats, Rahmani completed her training which included training on C-130s with the US Air Force. She received International Women of Courage Award and was granted asylum in the US.
Born in Afghanistan, economist and politician Ajmal Ahmady grew up in the US. The Harvard alumnus later served as Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s senior economic advisor and minister of commerce and industry. He has also been the governor of Da Afghanistan Bank. He fled Afghanistan during the 2021 Taliban takeover.
Retired Afghan politician Sayed Sadaat served as a communications minister in Afghanistan before he moved to Germany in 2018. He later gained British citizenship. In spite of being an IT and telecom degree holder, he now works as a bicycle delivery man for the courier company Lieferando.
Remembered as one of the most barbaric Taliban leaders, Mullah Dadullah was known as The Butcher. He is believed to have burned villages and killed even infants by chopping their heads off for not following his orders. He also supervised the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan.
Afghan feminist politician and award-winning journalist Shukria Barakzai has previously been the Afghan ambassador to Norway. She has been under death threats from the Taliban for her views. She whispered voice notes from Kabul to the UK during the 2021 Taliban takeover and had a narrow escape from Afghanistan.
Afghan politician Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, ran a restaurant owned by his family in the US and returned to Afghanistan after fall of Taliban (2001). In 2005, he got elected to Kandahar Provincial Council. It was alleged that Ahmed was on CIA payroll. He was assassinated by Sardar Mohammad, one of his trusted bodyguards.
Afghan socialist and Marxist-Leninist politician Anahita Ratebzad is noted as one of the first four women who were elected to the Afghan parliament during 1965 election. A member of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and Revolutionary Council, Ratebzad held significant positions including as Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the Revolutionary Council, and Member of the Politburo of PDPA.
Afghan physician and politician Fatima Aziz was elected as a Member of the Afghanistan Parliament for Kunduz province during the 2005 Afghan parliamentary election, the first free parliamentary election that was held in Afghanistan after over three-decades. She got re-elected in subsequent elections in 2010 and 2018 and held office as an MP till she died of cancer in 2021.
A champion for human rights and women’s rights, Afghan social activist Sima Samar has also been Afghanistan’s minister of women's affairs during the reign of President Hamid Karzai. The Right Livelihood Award winner is a doctor who has worked for the betterment of Afghan women and children.
Former Afghan ambassador to the US, Adela Raz also scripted history as the first female politician to be the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations. She continued to serve as an ambassador even after the 2021 Taliban takeover but resigned in February 2022.
Former Afghan National Army brigadier general Khatool Mohammadzai scripted history as Afghanistan’s first female paratrooper. A 35-time decorated soldier, she has also worked as a military instructor. She was also the first female general since the Soviets left Afghanistan. In the Taliban regime of the 1990s, she ran a secret girls’ school.
Afghan hematologist and politician Habiba Sarābi scripted history as Afghanistan’s first female governor when she became the governor of Bamiyan. She was also her country’s 2nd minister of women's affairs. The 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner has also been a member of Afghanistan’s Peace Negotiation Team.
Former Afghan Air Force helicopter pilot Latifa Nabizada scripted history as one of the first 2 Afghan women pilots who could fly a Mi-17 helicopter. In 2013, she quite her flying career amid death threats from the Taliban and switched to a desk job at the Afghan defense ministry instead.
Hosna Jalil scripted history as Afghanistan’s first female deputy minister of interior. She has also served as a deputy minister in Afghanistan’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs. She was in US for higher studies when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in 2021. She now works as a board member at UNODC.
Afghan legislator Fauzia Gailani has been a Wolesi Jirga member for Herat Province. She had initially launched a chain of fitness centers and was an aerobics instructor. Forced to marry at 13, the mother of 6 later became a vocal champion of women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Afghan physician and Harvard School of Public Health alumna Suraya Dalil has also been Afghanistan’s public health minister. She has also been Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN. She has worked with UNICEF and has been the director of the WHO program on primary health care.
Robina Muqimyar, one of the first two women who represented Afghanistan at the Olympics, competed during 2004 and 2008 Olympics and drew international-attention for wearing the hijab while running. She became an MP in 2019. After the Taliban seized power in 2021 resulting in fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, there is no-trace of Robina since August 29, 2021.
Former Afghan minister of mines, petroleum and industries Nargis Nehan was one of millions of refugees who fled Afghanistan during the Afghan Civil War and grew up in Pakistan. She has been the first Afghan woman to be part of the Afghan Central Bank’s leadership.
Apart from being the former Afghan minister of women’s affairs, Husn Banu Ghazanfar is also an author and a poet. She has been a part of the faculty program of Kabul University’s literature department. She has also penned various books, such as The Human Fate.
International Women of Courage Award-winning Afghan gynecologist and obstetrician Nasrin Oryakhil has not only headed a maternity hospital in Kabul but has also launched the first Afghan clinic for obstetric fistula repair. She later took over as Afghanistan’s minister of labor.