After reporting for National Public Radio in the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East, as well as nearer her base in Paris, Sarah Chayes left journalism in 2002 to help rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime. She has launched a cooperative in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, producing fine skin-care products from local fruits, nuts, and botanicals. (www.arghand.org) The aim is to discourage opium production by helping farmers earn a living from licit crops, as well as to encourage collective decision-making. From this position, deeply embedded in Kandahar’s everyday life, Ms. Chayes has gained unparalleled insights into a troubled region.
Beginning in 2002, Ms. Chayes served in Kandahar as Field Director for Afghans for Civil Society, a non-profit group founded by Qayum Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s older brother. Under Ms. Chayes’s leadership, ACS rebuilt a village destroyed during the anti-Taliban conflict, launched a successful income-generation project for Kandahar women, launched the most popular radio station in southern Afghanistan, and conducted a number of policy studies. Later, she ran a dairy cooperative.
From 1996, Ms. Chayes was Paris reporter for NPR. Her work during the Kosovo crisis earned her the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards, together with other members of the NPR team. She has also reported from Algeria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Serbia and Bosnia, as well as covering the International War Crimes Tribunal and the European Union. Before that, Ms. Chayes free-lanced from Paris for a variety of radio and print outlets. She began her radio career in 1991 at Monitor Radio. Ms. Chayes graduated in History from Harvard University in 1984, earning the Radcliffe College History Prize. She served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, then returned to Harvard to earn a master’s degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies, specializing in the medieval Islamic period. She was born in Washington DC, in 1962. She has three
sisters and one brother. Ms. Chayes is recipient of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ inaugural Ruth Adams Award for writing on strategic issues. She has published articles in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Mail on Sunday, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. She is featured in the Sundance/Frontline World documentary “Life After War”/“A House for Haji Baba.” She has appeared on “NOW with Bill Moyers,” the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “ABC News” (Person of the Week), as well as a variety of programs on CNN and NPR. She has lectured widely, including at the Harvard Kennedy School, the National Defense University, the School for Advanced Military Studies, Ft. Leavenworth, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, Berkeley and Stanford Universities, and the Einstein Forum in Berlin, as well as participating in the training of incoming US and NATO military officers.
Her book on post-Taliban Afghanistan is The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Penguin Press, August 2006).