Behind the Burqa: Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom

Behind the Burqa: Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom

by Batya Swift Yasgur, Sulima
     
 

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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

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Overview

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 honor–and 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 States–and 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* "The stories of Sulima and Hala achingly articulate the twin and enduring legacies of misogyny and violence. A critical historical document, BEHIND THE BURQA ultimately reveals the unbreakable strength of Afghan women."(Eve Ensler, Author, The Vagina Monologues, Founder and Artistic Director, V-Day)

"...a fascinating story..." (Publishing News, 2 August 2002)

This memoir from two sisters who fled Afghanistan 20 years apart distinguishes itself from the spate of books about women in similar circumstances by the sheer breadth of its coverage. Through these first-hand accounts of oppression, abuse and downright misery, readers come to understand that the much-maligned Taliban only picked up where the Mujihaddin left off in curtailing women's rights. In fact, as "Sulima" and "Hala"'s mother points out, "(The Taliban) is better than the Mujihaddin. The laws are strict and harsh, but at least we know what to expect. They're not just randomly breaking into houses and killing people.... If we keep all the rules, then we will be safe." The sisters' tales of domestic abuse and other now familiar yet hair-raising injustices may crystallize the turbulent historical timeline, but it seems that their individual voices have been muted in translation. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to distinguish one from the other that much of the impact of this well-intentioned book is lost. (Oct.) (Publishers Weekly, September 30, 2002)

Publishers Weekly
This memoir from two sisters who fled Afghanistan 20 years apart distinguishes itself from the spate of books about women in similar circumstances by the sheer breadth of its coverage. Through these first-hand accounts of oppression, abuse and downright misery, readers come to understand that the much-maligned Taliban only picked up where the Mujihaddin left off in curtailing women's rights. In fact, as "Sulima" and "Hala"'s mother points out, "[The Taliban] is better than the Mujihaddin. The laws are strict and harsh, but at least we know what to expect. They're not just randomly breaking into houses and killing people.... If we keep all the rules, then we will be safe." The sisters' tales of domestic abuse and other now-familiar yet hair-raising injustices may crystallize the turbulent historical timeline, but it seems that their individual voices have been muted in translation. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to distinguish one from the other that much of the impact of this well-intentioned book is lost. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471263890
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.69(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Hala's religious faith and courage moved me very much. Her story reminds me of my own experiences in detention. Like me, Hala expected to be treated kindly and protected after she managed to flee persecution in her own country. Instead she found herself in detention, and was treated with cruelty and inhumanity. This book shows the injustices suffered by innocent women seeking asylum in the United States. I am sad that innocent people are still being imprisoned for no crime other than fleeing oppression. This book has information on how asylum-seekers are treated, and how you can help them. It also shows the power of religious faith to provide hope and courage even in prison."—Fauziya Kassindja, author of DO THEY HEAR YOU WHEN YOU CRY

"Women throughout the world have suffered at the hands of oppressive regimes, but the Taliban brought this subjugation to new levels of organized brutality. BEHIND THE BURQA dramatically brings to life the harsh reality women have faced in Afghanistan over the past twenty years. The story of Sulima's visionary involvement there in early efforts to promote women's rights is moving and inspiring, as is the story of her life. Both Sulima and Hala epitomize the world-wide struggle of women for equality and justice. Their story is gripping and illuminating."—Jessica Neuwirth, President of Equality Now

"The stories of Sulima and Hala achingly articulate the twin and enduring legacies of misogyny and violence. A critical historical document, BEHIND THE BURQA ultimately reveals the unbreakable strength of Afghan women." —Eve Ensler, Author, The Vagina Monologues Founder and Artistic Director, V-Day

"BEHIND THE BURQA brings readers dramatically into the plight of innocent asylum-seekers who are detained in the United States. The book is a grippingreading experience, and it also offers important suggestions for those who would like to participate in making our asylum policies more humane." —Eleanor Acer, Director, Asylum Program, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

"Whenever and wherever adults make war, children die and women are subjected to fear and humiliation. This is true of Afghanistan too. Read this harrowing book. The tragic yet heroic tale of two women is told with great simplicity. They will haunt you." —Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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