Afghan author Qais Akbar Omar has become a leading fundraiser for the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, making national appearances to spread the word on IEAW’s mission and achievements. Omar is the author of the internationally acclaimed memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers, published last April in the US; editions in 20 other countries are slated for release in coming months. The book – praised by Oprah Winfrey, The New York Times, and in scores of media worldwide – chronicles how his family survived Afghanistan’s vicious civil war in the 1990s by drawing on age-old Afghan culture and values. Subsequently, Omar and his parents were among the many Afghans who defied the Taliban by operating a clandestine school for girls in their home.
After Omar spoke at an Initiative summer fundraiser in Barrington, Rhode Island, an attendee offered to contribute $5,000 in exchange for an autographed copy of A Fort of Nine Towers. Within minutes, several $1,000 donations were tied to additional autographed copies. Omar is thrilled. “I have five sisters,” he said. “Three have finished university in Afghanistan and two will soon go. My family places a very high value of educating women. I want to make sure that all Afghan women have the opportunities that my sisters have had.”
In October, Omar traveled to Austin, Texas to speak at a gathering at the home of Karen Hughes, who shares with former First Lady Laura Bush a deep commitment to Afghan women. Hughes introduced The Initiative to her large circle of friends from her years in Texas politics and the White House as advisor to former President George W. Bush. The next day, The Initiative board member Drue Gensler hosted Omar and several IEAW students and graduates for a special presentation in the Austin offices of her international architectural firm. Omar also spoke to a large turnout of interested Austin residents at David Alan Rugs, an upscale carpet store that became a bookstore for a few hours.
At each appearance, Omar was peppered with questions by listeners eager to speak directly with an Afghan. Omar engaged the IEAW women in his sessions, drawing them out on their experiences in the US, and what they hope to take back to Afghanistan with them. Encouraged by the warm welcome in Austin, Omar and The Initiative are planning similar visits to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston and Providence.