Boston Herald, May 7, 2002
Afghan women detail terror under Taliban
by Rob Mitchell
A number of authors have recently looked "behind the veil" to reveal the extraordinary, unseen women of Afghanistan.
These writers argue it was the Taliban's terror of women that fueled policies banning women from schools and the workplace, and requiring them to wear the long veils called burquas. Laughter and loud talk were forbidden, seen as being sexually exciting.
Even after the Taliban's defeat, the streets of Kabul remain an unpleasant reservoir of overheated hyper-masculinity, so Afghan women continue to stay indoors. But many Afghan women have organized to oppose their oppressors.
"Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women's Resistance" by Cheryl Benard (Broadway, $$23.95).
Twenty years ago, while Afghanistan fought the Soviet Union and the United States armed the fundamentalist warlords, a young Afghan woman, Meena, founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Meena believed that educated women could provide strong opposition to violence and extremism.
In this informative history, Cheryl Benard takes the reader inside RAWA's political culture, describing courageous, educated Afghan women who are willing to discuss and listen to opposing points of view, and to persuade through reasoned argument instead of brute force.
"Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom" by Zoya with John Follain and Rita Cristofari (Morrow, $24.95).
Articulate and charismatic, Zoya is a second-generation member of RAWA. When her mother and father were killed on the orders of fundamentalist warlords, Zoya was sent to a school in Pakistan. Using Zoya's own words, journalists Follain and Cristofari tell the story of her return to Afghanistan on a mission for RAWA. Zoya's eloquence paints a chilling picture of the physical and psychological claustrophobia imposed on Afghan women.
"My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban; A Young Woman's Story" by Latifa (Hyperion $21.95).
This story of a young woman's struggle to survive under the Taliban is less mature, but no less courageous. Confined to a Kabul apartment with her mother and sister, Latifa finds the petty tyranny over her personal life intolerable. Overcoming a strange and indescribable exhaustion, the 16-year-old bravely defies the government and starts a school for the younger children in her building.
"Unveiled: Voices of Women in Afghanistan" y Harriet Logan (Regan Books, $29.95).
A visitor to Afghanistan in 1982, British photographer Harriet Logan returned in 1997 and again in 2001 to find and photograph the same Afghan women. With accompanying stories that range from hopeful to despairing, the visual contrasts are striking. Having experienced the penetrating stares of Afghan men herself, Logan capably articulates why Afghan women, even after the Taliban, are uncomfortable in the predatory atmosphere on the streets of Kabul.
Rob Mitchell hosts the radio talk show "Pages to People," which airs on WBNW-AM and WPLM-AM.