A memoir recounts one man’s wretched experience under tyrannical rule in Afghanistan.
Khaled Siddiq’s family was renowned throughout Afghanistan for its patriotic ardor. Khaled’s grandfather Ghulam Haidar Khan Charkhi was a respected general who fought in the Anglo-Afghan Wars, and all four of his sons, including Khaled’s father, Ghulam Siddiq Khan Charkhi, became important government figures. They participated in Prince Amanullah Khan’s project to aggressively modernize Afghanistan, which included diplomatic relations with European nations, the abolition of slavery, and greater freedom for women. However, after Amanullah was overthrown in 1929 in a coup orchestrated by religious fanatics, Khaled’s family was savagely punished for their loyalty to him. His uncles were murdered, and the rest of the family was placed under house arrest in Kabul and eventually exiled to Sarai Badam, where they lived in squalid conditions. When Khaled and his brothers reached puberty, they were sent to prison—a harrowing experience that’s vividly described here by debut author Adam Siddiq, Khaled’s grandson. He lived in that prison for nearly 15 years and was placed under house arrest for another five following his release in 1945. He found good work as a translator and got married, but he longed to see his father, who lived in exile in Berlin. When Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979, Khaled realized he had no choice but to move his whole family to Germany to save their lives. Siddiq composed this moving remembrance in collaboration with his grandfather, and the entire account is told in first person from Khaled’s perspective. The story, told in precise but moving prose, is often achingly beautiful—a stirring mix of sadness and inspiring triumph. Along the way, Siddiq limns an astute history of the country of Afghanistan that focuses on 40 of its most turbulent and formative years. The book includes black-and-white photographs of Khaled and his family as well as the reproduction of important correspondence in full. It all combines to create an intensely personal memoir whose political and moral dimensions have universal relevance and appeal.
A stirring recollection and an insightful national history.