Once again, Afghanistan is in the news. U.S. leadership is expecting to be able to negotiate with the Taliban. Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns was a wonderful read and such a moving story. Previously, I had only read of Afghanistan in Mitchner’s novel, Caravans It is obvious Hosseini writes from experience, research, and from interviews. His writing is solid and if one wanted, he or she could conduct a cultural study of Afghanistan by researching the people, places, special words, historical allusions, and historical events. In fact, if I were teaching the novel, I would focus on the cultural enrichment that could be gained from such a study.
There were many lines in this novel worthy of quoting, but the most interesting (and haunting) to me were the decrees of the Taliban once they had taken over. If you ever had any doubts about what your life would be like under the Taliban this should convince you that the society they want to build is not exactly a model of love and tolerance. This message that was proclaimed from loudspeakers, on radios and written in distributed flyers is from p. 247 of the novel:
These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:
All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.
All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.
All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.
Singing is forbidden.
Dancing is forbidden.
Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.
Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.
If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.
If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.
If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.
You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.
You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
Cosmetics are forbidden.
Jewelry is forbidden.
You will not wear charming clothes.
You will not speak unless spoken to.
You will not make eye contact with men.
You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.
Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.
Women are forbidden from working.
If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.
Listen. Listen well. Obey.