Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Bookseller of Kabul

I have just read the most wonderful, compelling and devastating book, The Bookseller of Kabul by the Norwegian foreign correspondent Asne Seierstad. I can’t speak highly enough of this portrait of an Afghan family after the fall of the Taliban. The lives of the central protagonists had so many parallels with the lives of people in Timor and yet there can be no denying that Timorese women have it a touch easier than Afghan women: at least they don’t have to wear the awful burqa, and can leave the house unaccompanied by a male relative.

Most importantly, they’re not killed for bringing shame on their families. However, like their Afghan sisters Timorese women endure the authoritarian power of their fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands and even sons; their uncles negotiate their bride price; girls marry too young and are sent to live with their husbands family who feel they own her because they purchased her; domestic violence rates are unacceptably high; men practice polygamy and often inherit their deceased brother’s wife; boys are privileged with an education; women are relegated to the domestic sphere while men control the public sphere; and women endure too many pregnancies and bear too many children without due regard for their health. If you read this book, you might well pay a thought not only to the plight of Afghan women but also to the situation of women in Timor. I commend this book to you.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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