A sharp and arresting people's-eye view of real life in Afghanistan after the Taliban
Soon after the bombing of Kabul ceased, award-winning journalist and women's rights activist Ann Jones set out for the shattered city, determined to bring help where her country had brought destruction.
Here is her trenchant report from inside a city struggling to rise from the ruins. Working among the multitude of impoverished war widows, retraining Kabul's long-silenced English teachers, and investigating the city's prison for women, Jones enters a large community of female outcasts: runaway child brides, pariah prostitutes, cast-off wives, victims of rape. In the streets and markets, she hears the Afghan view of the supposed benefits brought by the fall of the Taliban, and learns that regarding women as less than human is the norm, not the aberration of one conspicuously repressive regime. Jones confronts the ways in which Afghan education, culture, and politics have repeatedly been hijacked—by Communists, Islamic fundamentalists, and the Western free marketeers—always with disastrous results. And she reveals, through small events, the big disjunctions: between U.S promises and performance, between the new "democracy" and the still-entrenched warlords, between what's boasted of and what is.
At once angry, profound, and starkly beautiful, Kabul in Winter brings alive the people and day-to-day life of a place whose future depends so much upon our own.
In February 2003, Jones and her fellow NGO relief workers watched with disbelief and horror as Fox News declared the American war in Afghanistan a success the Taliban totally defeated, all Afghan women "liberated" and the infrastructure completely restored. The reality they knew on the ground in Kabul was starkly different. Jones (Women Who Kill) presents her version of the events in this fascinating volume, which tours Kabul's streets, private homes, schools and women's prison. The political and military history of Afghanistan, as well as its cultural and religious traditions, inform Jones's daily interactions and observations. Describing an English class she taught, for example, Jones says, "Once, after I explained what blind date meant, a woman said, 'Like my wedding.' " Jones focuses particularly on Afghan women, whose lives are often permeated by violence. Her sharp eye and quick wit enable vivid writing, as when she witnesses a fistfight from her traffic-blocked car: an old man hit by a cyclist socks the cyclist, a young man punches the old man, then a traffic cop joins and socks the young man. Seconds later, all get up and continue on their way.