Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan

Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan

Zarghuna Kargar

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1402268378

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"A powerful collection of testimonies that depict the struggles and hopes of Afghan women. An often emotional and at times painful read, this book is ultimately a poignant celebration of human resilience under unimaginable duress. " —KHALED HOSSEINI, New York Times bestselling author of The Kite Runner


"I am deeply touched by these stories...Dear Zari should be read by anyone who cares and wants to know about Asia and Asian women." —XINRAN


"All the stories in Dear Zari illustrate the suffering caused by deeply ingrained Afghan traditions. But [the women's} bravery and resilience shines through and Kargar touchingly reveals how hearing others' life stories finally gave her the courage to share her own. " —The Independent


Moving, enlightening, and heartbreaking, Dear Zari gives voice to the secret lives of Afghan women. For the first time, Dear Zari allows these women to tell their stories in their own words: from the child bride given as payment to end of a family feud, to a life spent in a dark, dusty room weaving carpets, from a young girl being brought up as a boy, to a woman living as a widow shunned by society.


Intimate, emotional, painful and uplifting, these stories uncover the suffering and strength of women in this deeply religious and intensely traditional society, and show how their courage is an inspiration to women everywhere.












of relief that nothing had happened to any of us in that wild mountain range, my mother told us to thank God for keeping us safe. The rest of the journey was much less dusty and we soon reached a small Pakistani tribal village where a streetlamp cast light on the smooth road ahead. I no longer had to cling on to the bar of the truck, and while my skin was dry from the wind and the smell of the hair-lice lotion lingered in my hair, the dust no longer bothered me. I had swallowed so much of it that

natural cliff-hanger. Through my work I learned about the dark period that the women of my country had endured during the Taliban era, while I was living abroad. I heard just how hard life had been for them, how families had felt pressured into giving away their daughters to older men, how women were treated as if they were no longer of any use because they couldn’t work or get an education. For a decade their faces had been hidden behind the walls of their houses and their voices had never

children. Whenever she walked in the village women would give her vicious looks. She wasn’t allowed to go to weddings or go near brides because people said she would bring misfortune. Being widowed for the second time depressed her, and she started to believe the superstitions herself. Even Layla’s family made her feel as if she were an evil woman responsible for her husbands’ deaths. It didn’t take long for another sad period in her life to start. This time it concerned the fate of her

washing and cleaning. I had no education so this was the only work I could do. Some families were kind and gave me enough money to buy food; others took advantage of my situation and gave me a very small amount of money or just food in exchange for a whole day’s work. I was desperate, though, and would accept anything to feed my children. One afternoon when I was on my way home from cleaning and washing at a house in the village, I noticed some young boys running around and creating clouds

teased her sister-in-law. “What does this narkhazak carry in her trousers? A kus or a khota?” And they dissolved into peals of laughter. Her sister-in-law warned the women that if they didn’t keep quiet Bakhtawara would get angry and attack them. At this, the women quietened down. Meanwhile Bakhtawara went to sit by herself in a corner of the room. She pretended that she hadn’t heard any of this exchange because she knew her sister-in-law would be embarrassed at her family’s behavior.

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