Far away from battles in dust-ridden villages infested with Taliban insurgents, and beyond the scream of fighter jets in the skies, is the real Afghanistan: the world of ordinary Afghan men and women.
Ever since the iconic image of a burqa-clad woman kneeling in Kabul’s stadium with a Kalashnikov held to her head was broadcast around the world, the west has been fascinated with Afghanistan’s women. Most of what we know about their lives is from daily news reports offering sketchy details of families killed by Nato air strikes or by insurgents. Unfortunately, death tolls tell us very little.
Two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, attempt to examine the sexual politics between Afghan men and women. In both – Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and Deborah Rodriguez’s The Kabul Beauty School – war is a distant backdrop; Afghan women cannot make political decisions, though they bear the brunt of their awful consequences.
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