Latifa was born into an educated middle-class Afghan family in Kabul in 1980. She dreamed of one day of becoming a journalist, she was interested in fashion, movies and friends. Her father was in the import/export business and her mother was a doctor.
Then in September 1996, Taliban soldiers seized power in Kabul. From that moment, Latifa, just 16 years old became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed. Her mother was banned from working. The simplest and most basic freedoms - walking down the street, looking out a window - were no longer hers. She was now forced to wear a chadri.
My Forbidden Face provides a poignant and highly personal account of life under the Taliban regime. With painful honesty and clarity Latifa describes the way she watched her world falling apart, in the name of a fanatical interpretation of a faith that she could not comprehend. Her voice captures a lost innocence, but also echoes her determination to live in freedom and hope.
Earlier this year, Latifa and her parents escaped Afghanistan with the help of a French-based Afghan resistance group.
Readers who want to know what life was really like when the Taliban ruled Kabul should turn off CNN and read this book. Latifa (who writes under a pseudonym) was a 16-year-old aspiring journalist when her brother rushed home one day in late 1996 with word that the white flag of the Taliban flew over their school and mosque. She writes, "We knew the Taliban were not far away... but no one truly believed they would manage to enter Kabul." The bizarre edicts of the women-suppressing regime slowly become a reality: women weren't allowed outside the home unless they were shrouded in a "chadri" (which covers the face and arms, unlike a burka, which covers the entire body and according to Latifa is worn only in distant provinces) and accompanied by a male relative. "A girl is not allowed to converse with a young man. Infraction of this law will lead to the immediate marriage of the offenders." No wearing of bright colors or lipstick; no medical care from a male doctor. And women doctors were not allowed to work, essentially cutting off medical care for women. Latifa's story puts a face on these now-familiar rules, and conveys the sheer boredom of the lively teenager-turned-hermit and the desperation of not knowing if she'll ever complete her education in such an upside-down world. Despite its rushed ending (the family fled to France in May 2001 with the help of French Elle) and the occasional reminder that the author is now only 22 (there's talk of Madonna, Brooke Shields, fashion and Indian films), this memoir is one instance where a thousand words are worth more than any picture.
I loved how mysterious the title of this book was. Verry fitting.
All I can say is that this book is outstanding and I appreciate the author taking the time to recall all these horrifying memories and sharing them.