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In the past few weeks the world has watched the Taliban once again take control of Afghanistan. In a rapid-fire coup that culminated in the takeover of large cities up to and including Kabul and the flight of President Ashraf Ghani, this terrorist group achieved operationally what experts call a “masterpiece”. As global powers debate whether to legitimize this dictatorship by recognizing it, and media conglomerates make breathtakingly irresponsible headlines, as the Taliban “promised to respect the rights of women and girls” this time around (because their track record does not seem to be of their own accord himself speaks)) Afghan citizens mobilize and face the terrorists who have taken over their country.
The Taliban have always been known – among other human rights violations – for their suppression of women and girls. This oppression takes many forms, but they all boil down to the same result: women are not considered to be full human beings with equal rights. Under Taliban rule, women are not allowed to go to school, have direct contact with men who do not cut jobs with their blood relatives, husband or in-laws (including doctors with related medical effects). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The punishments for disregarding their arbitrary rules are brutal – such as the shooting in the head of a 15-year-old girl who dares to go to school and has political opinions.
Despite the Taliban’s lies about their future treatment of women, their misogyny attitude has not changed. Zarifa Ghafari, the youngest woman mayor in Afghanistan’s history, told the newspaper: “I’m sitting here waiting for you to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I just sit with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me. ”
In times of strife and horror like this, it is imperative that we come together to help. From raising the voices of Afghan activists to donating money to organizations working for Afghanistan, I urge all of us to find a way to help Afghan citizens at this terrible time of their lives. And I also urge us to learn more about their experiences. This list of books by Afghan and Afghan diaspora women is a starting point.
My forbidden face from Latifa
In this heartbreaking account of life under the Taliban regime, Latifa shares the perspective of a young girl who watches the world she knew fall apart. From the blurb: “Your voice captures a lost innocence, but also reflects your determination to live in freedom and hope.”
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Open Skies: My life as Afghanistan’s first female pilot by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes
These newly released memoirs give us a glimpse into the incredible determination and skill of Rahmani, who joined the Afghan Military Academy in 2010 when the armed forces allowed women to join for the first time since the Soviets.
A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghans Who Dared to Raise Her Voice by Malalai Joya
Joya, a woman who grew up in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, has become a highly controversial figure after denouncing NATO-backed warlords at the age of 25. Two years later she was elected to the new Afghan parliament. In 2007, however, she was suspended by parliament because of her continued criticism of the warlords and drug barons. Her memoir, the survivor of four assassinations, will take your breath away.
Dancing in the mosque: the letter from an Afghan mother to her son from Homeira Qaderi
The blurb aptly describes these memoirs as “a burning letter from a mother to a son that she had to leave behind.” After running to hospital for childbirth at a time when armed soldiers often suspected pregnant women as suicide bombers, Qaderi defied the Taliban by teaching children to read and writing and fighting for women’s rights.
The Preferred Daughter: A Woman’s Struggle to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Koofi with Nadene Ghouri
The first Afghan female parliament speaker shares her story in these incredible memoirs. Dying in the sun after her birth, she survived and thrived despite the horrific mistreatment of her family and multiple assassination attempts.
Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Bosses and a Woman’s Journey through Afghanistan by Fariba Nawa
Afghan American journalist Fariba Nawa investigates Afghanistan and its devastating drug trafficking with warlords, corrupt officials, child brides and more.
Download Poems like Guns: Woman Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan Translated by Farzana Marie
In this breathtaking collection of poems, Marie translates poems by eight contemporary Afghan female poets. The original Persian Dari texts can be found as well as the English version.
The Storyteller’s Daughter: A Woman’s Return to Her Lost Home by Saira Shah
London-born journalist and documenter Shah traveled to her family’s home country to experience the realities of Afghan life. Growing up with the stories of her father, she searched for the stories and myths of her people.
Monster child of Rahela Nayebzadah
This debut novel introduces us to three children: Beh, Shabnam and Alif. Their perception of the world, indifferent and all too often cruel to immigrants like them, shapes history. But when Beh is sexually abused at the age of 13, the question of the child’s identity of the monster arises. As the blurb says, “Is it Beh who says it’s called a disease? Is it Shabnam crying tears of blood? Is it Alif who finally declares: “We are a family of monsters”? Or are the monsters all around us? “
This is only a small selection of the books by Afghan women worth reading, but hopefully this is a starting point for a much longer conversation through literature.