Chatto and Windus £12.99

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

Finally, a break with tradition

In recent years, the lot of many Afghan women has improved considerably, but their repression continues unabated in certain parts of the country. Arranged marriages are still the norm and many women are denied a basic education.

As Zarghuna Kargar notes in her absorbing collection of life stories: "Cultural roots run deep in Afghanistan and many people believe in them completely, often more than they do in Islamic faith."

The stories are drawn from the radio programme Afghan Women's Hour, produced by Kargar from 2004 to 2010, and they cover such controversial issues as the "exchange" and sale of child brides, rape, honour and virginity, and the pressures on women to produce a son. Some of the most poignant stories are those of the widows and divorced women, who find themselves shunned by their own families: "Becoming a widow in a traditional society like Afghanistan means you lose the right to talk freely, you lose the right to put on make-up and dress up."

In certain parts of Afghanistan, women are not allowed to work outside the home, so they become carpet weavers. Samira's story describes how their babies are sedated with opium to allow the women to concentrate on their work.

One of the most heartbreaking stories is Wazma's account of the disintegration of what had been a happy marriage after she loses a leg in a rocket attack. She discovers that her husband no longer wants her when he realises she is permanently disabled, claiming she is unfit to look after their daughter.

Kargar's family was forced to leave Kabul during the civil war and interwoven throughout the book are reflections on her own experiences: the childhood trauma of living though conflict (after witnessing a school friend's death, Kargar was given electroconvulsive therapy for depression); life as a refugee in Pakistan and Britain; and an unhappy arranged marriage followed by a painful divorce.

All the stories in Dear Zari illustrate the suffering caused by deeply ingrained Afghan traditions. Although women now have a voice – there are more than 60 female members of parliament – boys continue to be valued more than girls, parents still force their daughters into marriages, and most women remain dependent on the men in their family. But their bravery and resilience shines though and Kargar touchingly reveals how hearing others' life stories finally gave her the courage to share her own.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
books
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'