Two very important books, THE LOVERS and THE LAST THOUSAND, about Afghanistan has been released in the past month. Both books are written by accomplished journalists, Rod Nordland and Jeffrey Stern, who are veteran of reporting from Afghanistan. I had the pleasure of meeting Rod in person at his book launch party last week. He is a gracious man who deeply cares about Afghanistan and plight of Afghan women. I was very moved by his devotion to share Zakia and Ali's story with the world. If you read these books, please share your thoughts with me.
Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing
by Rod Nordland
Rod Norland’s THE LOVERS, explores the ongoing debate over women’s rights in the Muslim world through a young couple’s powerful and moving love story. After falling in love from afar, Zakia and Ali (two teenagers from different Muslim sects) defy their families and ignore Afghan customs to elope. After going into hiding, Zakia’s large and vengeful family vows to kill her in order to restore their family’s honor.
After Norland discovers them, he shares their story in the New York Times and then does all he can to to help them— but, he soon discovers the limit to how well he can protect them. THE LOVERS illustrates the degree to which misogyny still exists in traditional Afghan culture through a compelling tale of forbidden love, government mismanagement and a disregard for basic human rights.
THE LAST THOUSAND
One School and the Future of Afghanistan
by Jeffrey E. Stern
Set during the final year of American military occupation in Afghanistan, THE LAST THOUSAND explores what we leave behind when our foreign wars end. After building a school under the protection of foreign forces, the founder, Aziz Royesh, is faced with the challenge of maintaining a liberal school while the American troops are removed from Afghanistan. The author, Jeffrey E. Stern, explores the stakes of war through the impact Royesh has had on the students and a story which intertwines between the lives of multiple students at the Marefat school.
The Marefat school, founded in 2002 in the slums of Kabul by one of the country’s most vulnerable minority groups, the Hazara, serves as a beacon of hope for those who dream of a liberated Afghanistan. Stern explores the ways in which Royesh embraced the United States, created a school to flourish in the presence of Americans, and the losses that will occur as the American troops are pulled from Afghanistan. As the troops leave, the community and the school is left behind and unprotected. Stern poses the question, “When we launch our foreign wars do we inevitably raise in people the desire for things they cannot have forever?” and explores the response in THE LAST THOUSAND.