Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Maryam Durani

Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan is often called the spiritual home of the Taliban. It is also a home to thousands of NATO troops who, alongside Afghan soldiers, do daily battle with Taliban fighters. Kandahar province is a place where it pays to stay quiet. That is not Maryam Durani's way. As the owner and operator of a radio station that focuses on women's issues and as a member of the Kandahar provincial council, Durani stands up for the region's women with remarkable bravery. She is, inevitably, a target for the Taliban, who believe in a highly restricted role for women in Afghan society, and has survived several assassination attempts.

During a U.S. State Department ceremony in March, Durani stood between Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton as Clinton described Durani's work and presented her with one of the department's annual International Women of Courage awards. The clip is on YouTube for any Taliban commander with a computer to watch. Durani sees that not as a reason to fear but as an opportunity for defiance.

McAllester is a senior editor at TIME