One American woman’s personal battle to turn back the tide on the Taliban
Sonia Nassery Cole commands a room no matter what the size, and it’s for a good cause.
Cole, who has both Afghan and American citizenship, is founder and CEO of the Afghanistan World Foundation (AWF). The non-profit organization works to assist the humanitarian needs of Afghans and rebuild their country. AWF was founded in the wake of 9/11 in 2002, but its roots go back to the 1980s when Cole became a vocal advocate for her home country. She started by writing a letter to then-President Ronald Reagan to ask for his help.
“I never dreamed that he wouldn’t answer my letter,” says Ms. Cole, recalling her first step into what has become a lifetime of advocating on behalf of those who have no voice.
But Reagan did respond, and invited the young refugee to the White House. She organized congressional testimony to arm legendary Afghan rebel commander Ahmad Massoud and his Northern Alliance Freedom Fighters. Massoud, who was later assassinated, was nicknamed the lion of Afghanistan. He called Cole his “lioness” for her work and spirit on behalf of their country. It’s a nickname she has lived up to, and then some.
Cole is as unfailingly polite as she is incomparably passionate about rebuilding Afghanistan from decades of war and the poison grip of the Taliban. And she knows how to be genuinely charming when describing deadly serious situations.
Case in point was a recent screening and presentation in New York City of a documentary she produced about an 8-year-old Afghan boy who is the sole income-earner in his family, called The Bread Winner. Cole surprised the audience by stepping out from behind the podium to give a heartfelt explanation of the story behind the making of the documentary.
But if Ms. Cole has mastered the art of charming an audience, she also knows how to keep the focus on the urgent situation in Afghanistan.
“The country is falling apart because of the Taliban,” said Ms. Cole during the presentation.