When I picked this book up at Barnes and Noble I didn't really pay much attention, adding it to the pile of novels that I would soon devour. I just thought it would be a story about girls in Kabul doing underground resistance work against the Taliban or something. In a sense that is exactly what these girls are doing but within a totally different cultural context which changes the actions of these ladies from being conscious activism to societal survival.
I grew particularly attached to a woman named Azita, who went from well educated young woman to the wife of an illiterate man, and eventually finds her power. This amazing woman's story frames the book from beginning to end. Azita's journey was not something she always had control over but she has done her best to do the most with what she has. There is no closure in this story, no happy ending but Azita's life serves as the skeleton that carries the rest of the book through it's twists and turns.
People have a lot of opinions about the Muslim religion and whether or not it responsible for terrorism. And I AM NO EXPERT but I have to say that after reading the Underground Girls of Kabul, after reading 'I Am Malala' and after reading 'Do They Hear You Cry' I am fairly certain that the terrorism and hatred comes from illiterate religious leaders, driven by tradition, that are interpreting what "good Muslims" are supposed to act, look like, do with the interest of war lords and anti government groups in mind. These ideas and instructions are not based on the words of the Koran but instead a collection of tradition, societal norms and pieces of other ancient religions.
"Behind every discreetly ambitious young Afghan woman with budding plans to take on the world, there is an interesting father. And in every successful grown woman who has managed to break new ground and do something women usually do not, there is a determined father, who is redefining honor and society by promoting his daughter."
".. The idea of honor can be redefined by men to other men. What is honorable is not to beat a woman, to sell her or to take another wife; it is to have an educated daughter."
I think of all the girls, all the bacha posh, that I met during this literary adventure with fondness and send them love as well as light. Without their knowledge I consider them friends and I hope that all of their wishes are granted because steps towards gender equality in the Middle East are painstakingly slow
I finished this book a year, to the month, after Nordberg wrote it. And my hope is that I can encourage a few more people to read it, to expand the knowledge people outside of the Middle East have about Afghanistan and to inform a few more men about what sexism looks like in third world countries.