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From her first humanitarian visit to Afghanistan in 1994, Suraya Sadeed has been personally delivering relief and hope to Afghan orphans and refugees, to women and girls in inhuman situations deemed too dangerous for other aid workers or for journalists. Her memoir of these missions, Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, is as unconventional as the woman who has lived it. This is no ...
From her first humanitarian visit to Afghanistan in 1994, Suraya Sadeed has been personally delivering relief and hope to Afghan orphans and refugees, to women and girls in inhuman situations deemed too dangerous for other aid workers or for journalists. Her memoir of these missions, Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, is as unconventional as the woman who has lived it. This is no humanitarian missive; it is an adventure story with heart.
To help the Afghan people, Suraya has flown in a helicopter piloted by a man who was stoned beyond reason. She has traveled through mountain passes on horseback alongside mules, teenage militiamen, and Afghan leaders. She has stared defiantly into the eyes of members of the Taliban and of the Mujahideen who were determined to slow or stop her. She has hidden and carried $100,000 in aid, strapped to her stomach, into ruined villages. She has built clinics. She has created secret schools for Afghan girls. She has dedicated the second half of her life to the education and welfare of Afghan women and children, founding the organization Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) to fund her efforts.
Suraya was born the daughter of the governor of Kabul amid grand walls, beautiful gardens, and peace. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, she fled to the United States with her husband, their young daughter, their I-94 papers, and little else. In America, she became the workaholic owner of a prosperous real estate company, enjoying all the worldly comforts anyone could want, but when a personal tragedy struck in the early 1990s, Suraya seriously questioned how she was living and soon sharply changed the direction of her life.
Now, in Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, she shares her story of passion, courage, and love, painting a complex portrait of Afghanistan, its people, and its foreign visitors that defies every stereotype and invites us all to contribute to the lives of others and to hope.
"For the cost of one [American] bombing run," the author writes in this hard-hitting debut memoir, "I doubtless could have fed and clothed and cared for those 100,000 displaced Afghan refugees. For the cost of another...I likely could have educated their children."
With assistance from Lewis (Apache Dawn: Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, 2009, etc.), Sadeed, the founder of the nonprofit Help the Afghan Children, chronicles her many trips behind the lines in Afghanistan, where most aid workers feared to go. In 1993, at the time of her first trip back, the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan, but the country was divided into in warring fiefdoms, making travel dangerous. The author weaves together her personal story with that of her native land in this gripping memoir. After the 1979 Soviet invasion, Sadeed and her husband had been fortunate to be able to emigrate to the United States. The birth of her daughter and her career as a successful real-estate broker occupied her until the sudden death of her husband in 1993. In an effort to move on after her personal tragedy, Sadeed decided to raise money in order to provide basic necessities for the 100,000 people who were living in a temporary refugee camp on the outskirts of Jalalabad, and deliver it to them personally. The author describes the dangers she faced and the many brave, open-hearted people she encountered on this and subsequent trips. Some episodes were hair-raising, others heartwarming. She was able convince some Taliban leaders to assist her humanitarian mission, while, unknown to them, she was secretly funding underground girls' schools and health clinics for women. Sadeed provides insight into the traditional values which still sustain the culture, while making an eloquent appeal for understanding, compassion and aid for the people of Afghanistan, and for more schools in order to educate young people and break the cycle of violence.
A moving message from a courageous humanitarian, and more timely than ever.
"Living in the West had given me every material thing that I could have wished for, but at the same time I had lost so much of what makes life worth living. In America my happiness was determined by the interest rate or the state of the housing market. If the interest rate fell, I was happy because I'd have to pay less on my home loans, and likewise if property prices rose. I had lived by that mantra.
Somewhere on the road to Jalalabad I had come back to myself. I had realized that I couldn't measure my happiness by numbers alone. I had helped countless refugees. And what I had gotten in return— experiencing the joy of helping others—was immeasurable. I could feel a new kind of happiness burning in my heart."
From Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse
Author's Note ix
Prologue: Lessons by Lamplight (1997) 1
Part I Finding Hope in a Lawless Land (1993-1995) 15
1 Help the Afghan Children 17
2 The Beginning 29
3 The Camel Road 39
4 The Devil's Flowers 53
5 The Edge of Darkness 63
6 The Widow Camps 79
7 City of Ghosts 93
8 A Promise to Fatima 107
Part II Under the Iron Fist of the Taliban (1996-2001) 117
9 The Tree of Amputations 119
10 It Is What It Is 133
11 Stoned and Flying Out Here 145
12 The Day the Earth Turned Angry 157
13 Life and Love 169
14 Young Enough to Wed 183
15 New York Comes to Kabul 193
16 Singing with the Taliban 203
17 The Kindness of Strangers 219
Part III Battling for Hearts and Minds (September 2001-Present) 225
18 The Darkest Day 227
19 The Wrong Side of the Border 241
20 The Boy Who Killed the American 251
21 The Gift of Learning 263
Epilogue: Drop by Drop a River Forms 279
Posted December 2, 2011
i thought this book was well written, compelling & inspiring and i got a real insight into the lives of the people written about in the book, this is a story that will stay with me my whole life,
i highly recommend this book, and it is now my favorite book to buy as a gift!
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Posted June 25, 2011
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Posted November 6, 2011
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