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  • Writer's pictureAmy GB

Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Khaled Hosseini

All the vague impressions in my mind of Afghanistan being a heartbreaking place of war and misogyny were confirmed in reading this book. But it gave me nuance, exactly what is lost, and most importantly a human face.

The Humans & Their Stories

Mariam is the illegitimate child of a high-flying businessman and his servant, kept in a small hut in the country. When she is fifteen, her father arranges her marriage to Rasheed, truly the worst of humanity in one character, who takes her away to Kabul. Into their lives comes their neighbour Laila, thrown on Rasheed's mercy by a bombing. Also weaving in and out of the story is Laila's best friend Tariq, a likeable impish teenage boy who has lost a leg to a landmine.

It's deeply cringe-inducing to watch Mariam shrink herself to Rasheed's requests, each of which seems reasonable, until they don't. And when Mariam and Laila try to leave Rasheed, they have absolutely no recourse to help because the reigning regime hates women as much as he does.

My Understanding of the Politics

[Mariam] ran to the living room, found Laila already at the window, Aziza mounted on her shoulders. Laila turned and smiled. "The Taliban are here," she said.

  1. During their heyday, the Soviets controlled Afghanistan. In a sentiment which was echoed by at least one character in the Mongolian book I read, one good thing about this regime was the gender equality, including women having substantial professional careers.

  2. Obviously loads of people also hated the Soviets, including the Mujahideen (those engaging in jihad), who toppled the regime after years of fighting. These efforts were supported financially and armed by the U.S.A and U.K.

  3. Once the Soviets collapsed and the western powers withdrew, lacking a common enemy, infighting between the Mujahideen led to even more violence and war within Afghanistan as they fought over who would control the new regime.

  4. The Taliban were a movement of ethnic Afghans who had been raised in Pakistan, who took over in a bid to cement stability in Afghanistan. Their list of extreme fundamentalist prohibitions is truly chilling.

  5. After 9/11, the U.S.A. declared war on Afghanistan and disempowered the Taliban. I gather that as of last year the Taliban are back in full force.

You will not make eye contact with men.

You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.

You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.

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