Seven books (none of them by Khaled Hosseini)

As the Taliban stormed into major cities in Afghanistan to regain political control after the US withdrawal, citizens and residents feared the return of hard-line Islamic rule. Although the Taliban have promised more moderate rule – and respect for women’s rights – most are skeptical and wonder what the future holds for them, especially women who fear losing the basic freedoms gained over the two years. decades.

There are many books to understand the political chaos of Afghanistan, but the fiction and poetry of the country are rarely put forward. This reading list provides an overview of the complex struggle for women’s rights, the poetic traditions of the region, the memoirs of Afghan immigrants to the United States, and the impact of the opium trade on ordinary people. .

The seamstress of Khair Khana

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Based on a true story, The sewer is a book about the resilience of Kamila Sidiqi, a woman entrepreneur under the Taliban regime. Lemmon traveled to Afghanistan in 2005, where she met Sidiqi in Khair Khana, a northern suburb of Kabul. Although women were barred from working under the Taliban, Sidiqi began secretly making dresses to support her family of five siblings when she was just a teenager. “We’re much more used to seeing Afghan women as victims to be pitied rather than survivors to be respected,” Lemmon explained in his introduction.

In a war-torn nation, when men were imprisoned or on the front lines of war, women became the breadwinner. Lemmon began writing stories about women in conflict zones in 2004, while studying for her MBA at Harvard Business School. She wrote a profile on successful businesswomen in Rwanda: fruit sellers, gas station owners, basket sellers, etc. Also in Kabul, she wanted to write about a new generation of businesswomen.

“Most stories about war and its aftermath inevitably focus on men: soldiers, returning veterans, statesmen. I wanted to know what war was like for those who had been left behind: the women who managed to keep going even as their world fell apart, ”she wrote in her introduction. Sidiqi’s business has gone from its dresses sewn in its living room to the employment of more than a hundred women. The book speaks of his courage, and above all, of a brotherhood like no other, marked by passion and laughter rather than fear and insecurity.


Loading poems like guns: the poetry of the women of Herat, Afghanistan

Edited and translated from Persian by Farzana Marie

This collection of poems by eight poets from Herat, an ancient town near the Iranian border, was written after 2001. The collection’s best-known poet is Nadia Anjuman, famous for introducing a fresh and modern approach to traditional poetry dari, especially the ghazals. Most of the other poets in the collection are either his followers or influenced by his form of writing.

Anjuman studied literature in secret during the reign of the Taliban and wrote about the politically enforced silence under a cruel regime, where women have lost their voices. She has met with women and notebooks in secret, sewing baskets to disguise her true ambition to revive Herat’s literary legacy. Her husband and family did not support her literary ambitions and she was murdered in a domestic violence case.

This collection, edited and translated by Farzana Marie, a full-fledged poet, is part of the tradition of the response through art. Marie received her doctorate from the University of Arizona in Middle Eastern Literature and served as an active officer for over six years in Afghanistan. Poetry has been used as a protest against injustice, and this collection serves to bring nuance to gender issues that are generally simplified under Western gaze, where Afghan women have been treated as an object of pity.

Load Poems Like Guns: Poetry for Women from Herat

The Swallows of Kabul

Yasmina Khadra, translated from French by John Cullen

The Swallows of Kabul is the story of four people who desperately try to hold onto their humanity as their city sinks into the dirt and death becomes a routine. Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of Algerian writer Mohammed Moulessehoul. He adopted a female name to avoid censorship when he joined the Algerian army.

“My novel, The Swallows of Kabul, gives Western readers a chance to understand the heart of a problem that it usually only touches on the surface, ”he said in an interview with German radio station SWR1 in 2006.“ Because fanaticism is a threat to all, I contribute to the understanding of the causes and the antecedents.

The Swallows of Kabul was selected for the 2006 IMPAC Dublin International Literary Prize and adapted in 2D watercolor by two directors, Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobé Mévellec. The book follows the lives of two couples, exploring how everyday existence has changed under fanaticism.

Mohsen and Zunaira Ramat are a couple from a privileged class of the pre-Taliban era. Before the Taliban came to power, Mohsen wanted to be a diplomat. Now that his dream has been rendered aimless, he wanders the torn streets of Kabul and comes across the stoning of a woman who has been proclaimed a prostitute for adultery. He finds himself joining the delirious crowd. Later, his marriage begins to suffer, as he is suspicious of his wife. Another couple, prison warden Atiq Shaukat and his wife Musarrat are raised in poverty. They are drawn to a life of jihad, but collapse into the privations of war, succumb to disease and eat away at their faith.

The Swallows of Kabul

West of Kabul, east of New York

Tamin Ansary

Ansary, a Kabul-born children’s writer, wrote an email to his friends to give his Afghan take on the 9/11 attacks. His email was sent to millions of people and he quickly became the voice of the Afghan people. Born to an Afghan father and an American mother, Ansary moved to the United States in 1964 to study. He finds himself in the midst of his traditional Islamic education and a new secular and Western life. His memoirs recall how his life changed after the terrorist attacks.

Asked about his memoirs by the Asia Society, he said: “I think it’s a narrative, rather than an analysis, that revolves around the moments in my life that involve loss, love, or loss. adventure, or face change, or grow. or death. The book addresses the rise of Islamophobia in the United States through an in-depth exploration of Islam, reiterating that bin Laden and the Taliban are not really Afghanistan. Divided into three sections, Ansary’s book focuses on her family history and childhood, her travels through the Middle East with her younger brother, and her dual identity as an Afghan and an American. Her ultimate message in the book is that of a shared humanity.

West of Kabul, east of New York

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

Ahmed Rachid

Rashid, one of Pakistan’s best-known journalists, writes about the impact of the Taliban in Central Asia. It explores why Afghanistan has become the center of international terrorism, the role of the Taliban in the oil trade, and the world’s attitude towards the Taliban.

When the Taliban first came to power, they were seen as messiahs who would cleanse Afghanistan from war. Most Taliban men grew up as war orphans, in refugee camps, and were educated in Pakistani madrasas. Rashid talks about the various forms of support the Taliban has received – from drug mafias to political parties.

Tracing the history of the Taliban as a democratic organization to autocratic rulers, Rashid shows how Afghanistan became one of the most isolated countries in the world. He traveled through Afghanistan risking his life to cover the instability of one of the most strategically important and war-ravaged countries.

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

The poetry of the Taliban

Edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

The collected literary works of the Taliban provide rare insight into the militant organization’s cultural worldview. Kandahar-based scholars and writers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn have translated and edited over 200 poems, mostly taken from the official Taliban website.

Displaying a variety of emotions, the poems go beyond a military program. Afghanistan’s old poetic traditions are used by the Taliban to write about lamentation, religion, battle, and even non-violence. Showcasing a complex image of the Taliban, this collection also honors the tradition of oral storytelling in the literature of the region.

The editors wanted to deflect attention from foreign involvement in Afghanistan and take a closer look at the country itself. “We have divided it into five individual sections, covering the themes of love and pastoral care, religion, politics and social discontent, the battlefield and the costs of war in human terms,” ​​he said. they stated in an interview with Atlantic.

Instead of viewing this collection as a way to build sympathy for the Taliban, the editors want readers to use the poems to provide a “new window to an amorphous group.” It’s also about urging academics to stop seeing the Taliban as a monolithic movement. “The war will end when the political conflict is tackled, which must eventually begin by challenging and challenging our stereotypes about the Afghan Taliban as well as Afghanistan as a whole,” they said.

The poetry of the Taliban

Opium Nation: Child Wives, Drug Lords, and a Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan

Fariba Nawa

Nawa is an Afghan-American journalist who grew up in Herat and fled to the United States during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s. In 2000, she snuck into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan via Iran for review the progress of reconstruction. In his book, Opium Nation, she speaks with those involved in opium production in Afghanistan and examines its impact on the lives of women.

Sixty percent of Afghanistan’s GDP comes from the opium trade, and about two-thirds of that opium is turned into heroin. The distillation process is where many ordinary women find their livelihood. Opium debts are usually settled through trafficking, which has led to the creation of “opium brides”. Girls as young as 12 are married off to men decades older than themselves to settle their debts.

The book follows the life of one such girl, Darya, whose fate takes Nawa across the country to understand the circumstances that lead to the rural poor’s close relationship with the opium industry. Yet at the same time, the opium trade has enabled many families to prosper and women to find a source of income. Nawa’s book is a personal exploration of his own Afghan identity; she calls the book a “partial memory”, but also a journalistic enterprise supported by facts and figures.

Opium Nation: Child Wives, Drug Lords, and a Woman's Journey Through Afghanistan