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It is often considered the fault of the woman, and many women blame themselves, as revealed in the following example. Having failed to produce a son, a husband decided to take a second wife in the hope she could provide him with a male heir. For this purpose, he needed a separate room in the house for his new bride. Another story tells of a young girl who fell in love with a boy next door.

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This disturbing story reveals details of the fourteen year old girl being bundled forcefully into a car driven far away from her home, where she spent her married life like a maid, cooking his food, eating leftovers and preparing his hashish. Sometimes he beat her if she was slow in making his tea or preparing his drugs. Another story tells of a girl whose parents transformed her appearance from female to male by dressing her as a boy. The stories reveal that girls could be married as young as twelve and would often face violence in their in-laws home and many were treated as slave labour.

What comes across strongly is that many girls and women have no rights to question the men in their families and they can do little without the permission of males in the household.

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Political changes in Afghanistan have altered the lives of many women for the better. For instance, women can voice their views through female members of parliament and politicians. Also, there are many women nominating themselves for elections. Life for women in urban areas such as Kabul for example, would be a lot different compared to those living in rural areas. Nonetheless, we are still aware that many injustices, attacks and horrific abuses against women continue to be prevalent in south and central Asia.

I think what makes this book most effective is that Kargar shares a similar cultural background with these women, but also lives in London and understands western culture. She manages to serve as a bridge of understanding between the two, presenting Islamic values in a way that westerners can understand. It's hard to say that I "enjoyed" the stories because they are overwhelmingly sad, even heartbreaking at times. But they are also fascinating and eye-opening. Many of these women have faced great hardship and their stories are deeply moving, even as they reveal just how far we have to go in promoting women's rights around the world.

Jul 03, Peggy Kelsey rated it it was amazing Shelves: One thing I loved about this book is that some of these interviews were done by women Zari trained to do interviews. What this means is that the lives and stories of the women in the book are ones not usually covered by the Western press. Some of these stories are hard to read, but there are many similar stories that have yet to be told. Zari's own story woven throughout added great insights into the lives of Afghan expatriates who may live among us in the West. Apr 30, Chris rated it it was ok Shelves: This book is disappointing because it could have been more.

And that is the heart of the issue. And because of this, it suffers. The flaw shows up when Kargar interjects her persona This book is disappointing because it could have been more. The flaw shows up when Kargar interjects her personal story into the stories of the other women. This in of itself could be an interesting memoir, but forced and rammed into comparison with the stories of the other women, at worse it cheapens the books; at best it makes Kargar look at a whiner.


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It would undoubtedly be true, but there is a difference between that, and your parents making you are a boy or your mother debating about suicide because of it. May 06, Sharon Bolton rated it liked it. When civil war erupted across Afghanistan, she and her family escaped to Pakistan, where she trained as a journalist.

We learn about the children given as brides in part-payment of debt, who are starved, raped and beaten. We learn about women demanding their rightful inheritance, only to find the law, police and male relatives conspiring against them. The picture the book paints is of a bleak, mediaeval society, in which masculinity has become synonymous with brutality, and in which the women are often as bad as the men. Mothers-in-law, favoured second wives and sisters endorse and participate in the cruel bullying of their younger sisters.

There might be tens of thousands of others leading perfectly happy, fulfilled lives, but somehow, I doubt it.


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  • View all 3 comments. Jan 28, Taj rated it liked it. I don't know how to properly rate a book that is so unpleasant in its honesty and its bleakness. The book itself is well-written, poignant, approachable and important. The subject matter is depressing, hopeless, infuriating and incomprehensible.

    Dear Zari Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan : Zarghuna Kargar :

    It leaves the reader wondering is there a "normal" Afghan experience. Is there an Afghan family unit with ties of loyalty, fidelity and love? Because after reading these stories, you are left jaded and cynical to wonder if such familial ties exist or are I don't know how to properly rate a book that is so unpleasant in its honesty and its bleakness. Because after reading these stories, you are left jaded and cynical to wonder if such familial ties exist or are even possible in such an environment.

    It is a bleak portrait of a world that is so foreign as to be incomprehensible. Foreign, not because it is a land far away or because women's rights are non-existent, but foreign in the sense that the most basic human bond, the love of parent and child, appear to be twisted and subverted. Fathers and mothers willingly cast their daughters into the bleakest of situations with little hesitation or regret.

    I can't understand this world. Jan 19, Kristen rated it liked it. I thought this book was going to be about women all over the Middle East and their different stories. Where this was present it was also A LOT about the author herself. I did not want to read a memoir but different stories. I actually got tired of the author interrupting the other women's stories to talk about her own life and the radio show she does.

    When I want to read only about the author, I will get her biography. Other than the aforementioned complaint, I found these women to be braver than I thought this book was going to be about women all over the Middle East and their different stories. Other than the aforementioned complaint, I found these women to be braver than anything I could imagine for myself. I don't know how they do it.

    I am so proud and incredibly blessed to have been born a Christian in America where I am free to make all of my own decisions in life. I pray for these women and am truly amazed at their resolve! This is an incredible book! The women who bravely came forward and told their stories deserve all our admiration and support.

    Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan

    Cudos to Dear Zari. She and her journalists provided a platform for women who had been silenced to speak, and for thousands of silenced women to hear stories reminiscent of their own. We who live in a society in which women have rights and the freedom to live their lives productively and without fear, would do well to understand the plight of Afgan women and This is an incredible book! We who live in a society in which women have rights and the freedom to live their lives productively and without fear, would do well to understand the plight of Afgan women and their children.

    Nov 04, Carol rated it really liked it.

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    An amazing book of women of Afghanistan. Portrayals of women who are locked in a world where they are neither valued nor respected. These women were treated as property and with suspicion, and having almost no freedom of movement. The book raised several questions for me, including: This collection of stories of the lives of women in Afghanistan deserves to be read by a wider audience. Despite the traumatic lives that these women have lived, their stories carry a message of strength and courage and we could all learn a lot from them.

    Beautifully written, Dear Zari will touch the hearts of many. Mar 27, Justin rated it really liked it. A somewhat harrowing read, which at times reminded me of Holocaust narratives, this is definitely worth a read for understanding why Soviet and Western promotion of women's rights was so antagonistic in Afghanistan. It's also a fascinating insight into Afghan society and culture, as well as showing how valuable the BBC's various radio broadcasts around the world are - which made it all the more shocking and extremely poignant to read that Afghan Woman's Hour was axed in early due to funding A somewhat harrowing read, which at times reminded me of Holocaust narratives, this is definitely worth a read for understanding why Soviet and Western promotion of women's rights was so antagonistic in Afghanistan.

    It's also a fascinating insight into Afghan society and culture, as well as showing how valuable the BBC's various radio broadcasts around the world are - which made it all the more shocking and extremely poignant to read that Afghan Woman's Hour was axed in early due to funding cuts. So Zarghuna weaves her own story in with 12 of the hundreds of women's life stories that were broadcast as part of Afghan Woman's Hour on the BBC's Pashtu and Dari service. They are a superb selection of lives, providing a diverse set of situations, though the early ones are universally depressing, illustrating how truly terrible a woman's lot can be in traditional Afghanistan.

    Lack of rights and constant brutality are pervasive, as are conditions of slavery. It is truly heart-rending. Practices such as feeding opium to babies so that women are not distracted from their long hours of carpet-weaving were particularly shocking, beyond a litany of beatings, imprisonment and starvation. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The very fact that broadcasting these stories together with such things as discussions from experts made a positive difference to women's lives is very encouraging, and thankfully there were more positive stories towards the end though by no means without their share of tragedy.

    I was particularly moved by the story of Bakhtawara, who was raised and lived as a man, and indeed was accepted by other men as such, though she was taunted by women as a eunuch. Sadly she longed to marry and be a mother, which she could never do as a "man". The love story of Ghutama was a perfect story to end on as well, in view of its fairly happy ending - I was moved by the extraordinary strength and character of this Kuchi woman. Zarghuna herself is an extraordinary woman too, and I'm grateful for the various work she has done for Afghan women.

    Jun 29, Zahra rated it liked it.