An inspiring, disquieting history of her homeland—personal, political, polemical—by an Afghan woman now living in Canada.
Best known for her journalism and the films Kandahar and Return to Kandahar, Pazira recalls among her earliest childhood memories a visit to her father (a physician and political activist) at a detention center in 1978, when she was only five. He was eventually released, but the family lived in fear and was subjected to constant harassment. The Paziras endured the Soviet invasion; their initial elation at the rise of mujahidin was soon followed by dismay and disillusionment with the harshness of these anti-Soviet fighters. The author’s description and analysis of the mujahidin’s sanguinary strategies serves uncomfortably well to explain the current behavior of Iraqi insurgents as well. By firing rockets into their own neighborhoods, she avers, the mujahidin aimed to show people in a most horrible way that the Soviets could never protect them. Following the emergence of the Taliban, the Paziras realized they must leave their homeland, which no longer welcomed—or even tolerated—people with liberal political, religious and social views. The most gripping passages deal with their escape in 1989. After bribing border guards and dulcifying military patrols, they finally got into Pakistan, but living conditions were so miserable that they eventually emigrated to Canada, which welcomed them as political refugees. The author continued her education there, then returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban to discover that the lives of ordinary people remained miserable despite, or even because of, the U.S. military presence. Pazira’s most wrenching discovery concerned the fate of her long-time friend Dyana, a young woman who had stayed behind and eventually succumbed to despair. In another affecting segment, the author goes to Russia to interview people touched by the Afghan war.
An eloquent celebration of survival even as it explores the darkness of despair. (b&w photos)