A tale of struggle and suffering under the Taliban and their predecessors, from a courageous freedom fighter who has become an international spokesperson for the Afghan people.
The woman who narrated this story to two journalists does not use her real name. She is a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), created in the 1970s to resist first the fundamentalist mullahs, then the Russians, then their successors, the mujahideen and the Taliban. “Zoya” wistfully recalls her childhood in Kabul, where her grandmother cared for her while her mother worked, often coming home exhausted late at night. In 1985, the year Zoya turned eight, her mother finally explained that it was her work for RAWA that kept her so busy. Soon Zoya was carrying secret papers in her backpack as she accompanied her mother on political work. She learned to lie about her mother’s whereabouts and came to realize that, though her mother loved her, work came first. That realization signaled the end of her childhood: “I feel no sadness about this—I wanted to grow up fast so that I could achieve something useful.” After the Russians withdrew in 1989, the mujahideen began shelling Kabul and her parents disappeared, apparently killed. Mujahideen soldiers forcibly entered homes demanding that young women marry them; it was dangerous to be out on the streets even for women in burqas. In 1992, RAWA arranged for Zoya and her grandmother to flee to Pakistan, where she attended a RAWA-run girls’ school. When the Taliban took over, she began working in the refugee camps in Pakistan, returning only once (heavily disguised) to Kabul. She vividly describes Taliban atrocities, the grossly inadequate medical care for women (most female doctors fled), and the absurdity of wearing the cumbersome burqa, in which “something as mundane as eating ice cream became a ridiculous undertaking.”
Timely and sobering.