Faceless behind their burqas under the harsh and ruthless rule of the Taliban, the women of Afghanistan were, for decades, voiceless as well. Terrorized and persecuted during twenty years of war, famine, and despotism, two generations of Afghan women have come of age under conditions of oppression and privation unimaginable and unpublicized in the West.
In Behind the Burqa, you’ll meet two sisters whose thirst for freedom and independence led them to extraordinary acts of courage, defiance, and desperation. For fear of reprisal, "Sulima" and "Hala" cannot, even now, reveal their true identities. What they do reveal in remarkable detail is the private torment of women in Afghanistan and their decades-long public struggle for political rights, education, and equality.
Sulima paints a vivid portrait of growing up in a strict Muslim household. She tells the chilling story of how her own brothers betrayed her in the name of family honorand she recounts the important role she played in the formation of Afghanistan’s first women’s rights and literacy movements in the 1970s. Sulima also relates the events that led to the stark choice she was forced to make between being sent to prison and leaving her country forever.
Hala, sixteen years younger than Sulima, describes a childhood plagued by the rise of the Mujihaddin and the unspeakable brutality of mobs intent on ridding Afghanistan of all Western influence. Through her eyes, we witness a midnight raid on her family’s home, the poverty and starvation that beset the nation during its years of war and anarchy, the perils of running a clandestine school for girls under the Taliban regime, the terrors of being arrested and brutalized, and the dangers of fleeing Afghanistan. Just as shocking is the story of her arrival as an asylum-seeker in the United Statesand her determination at the hands of immigration authorities.
This unforgettable tale of bravery, struggle, and survival reveals an Afghanistan only hinted at in news reports and government statements. Sulima and Hala introduce dozens of their "sisters," whose colorful personalities, capabilities, and hopes for the future were for so long hidden. Behind the Burqa will anger you, it will frighten you, and, ultimately, it will inspire you with the compelling and suspenseful stories of these women, their tragedies, their triumphs, and their fierce determination to prevail against the odds.