The Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul - ├ůsne Seierstad, Ingrid Christopherson A truly enlightening read. While I knew that the treatment of women in Afghanistan was horrendous and oftentimes inhumane, this inside look at a 'real family' was an eye-opener. What is most distressing, I think, is that the patriarch of the family is a somewhat progressive man by Afghani standards, promoting literacy and education and free thinking as well as desiring Afghanistan to become a more progressive country. The bookseller of the title - Sultan Kahn - appears from the outside to be the type of citizen that would do Afghanistan proud, someone who would be instrumental in bringing his country back from the dismal state it is currently in.

However, behind closed doors, Kahn treats his family members as mere slaves. While his complete oppression falls mostly on the heads of his wives, sisters, daughters and mother, even his sons are not immune to his autocratic rule. For a man who claims to value education, not a one of his own children is permitted to attend school. When a poor carpenter with a large family to feed is caught stealing postcards from Kahn's shop, Kahn never manages to find a drop of compassion for the man and insists that he be put in prison for his crime, even though it meant that the carpenter's family would most likely starve. I'm not a Muslim but that certainly doesn't sound very charitable to me. Do Muslims have anything close to the Christian maxim "What Would Jesus Do?" I hardly think Mohammad would advocate causing a man's family to starve to death.

If Sultan Kahn is one of the more progressive, forward thinking males in his country, I can barely imagine how a more conservative man would treat his family members. I shudder at the thought and thank my lucky stars that I live in the USA, even with all of our own problems.

What's very sad is that my impression of life in Afghanistan is now so bleak - I don't see any hope at all for these people. Short of the women of the country finding their own power and revolting against the men who keep beating them down, both figuratively and literally, I'm not sure how anything will ever change.