The Sewing Circles of Herat
A Personal Voyage Through AfghanistanBook - 2002 | 1st American ed
A gold-inscribed invitation to a wedding in a foreign land led Christina Lamb at the age of twenty-one to leave suburban England for Peshawar on the frontier of the Afghan war. Like the Englishmen in the Great Game of the nineteenth century, she was captivated by the Afghans she met. For two years she tracked the final stages of the mujaheddin victory over the Soviets as Afghan friends smuggled her in and out of their country in a variety of guises -- from burqa-clad wife to Kandahari boy -- travelling by foot, on donkeys or hidden under the floor of an ambulance.
Among those friends was Abdul Haq, the recently executed Kabul commander, and Hamid Karzai, the new president of Afghanistan, who took Lamb to his hometown of Kandahar, where they rode around on the backs of motorbikes belonging to a group of fighters known as the Mullahs Front. It was these figures who went on to become founding members of the Taliban.
Long haunted by her experiences in Afghanistan, Lamb returned there after the attacks on the World Trade Center to find out what had become of the people and places that had marked her life as a young graduate, and to report for Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
She was now seeing the land anew, through the eyes of a mother and an experienced foreign correspondent who has lived in Africa, South America, Portugal and the United States. Lamb's journey brought her in touch with the people no one else has written about: the abandoned victims of almost a quarter century of war.
Among them are the brave women writers of Herat who risked their lives to carry on the literary tradition of this ancient Persian city under the guise of sewing circles; the princess whose palace was surrounded by tanks on the eve of her wedding; the artist who painted out all the people in his works to prevent their being destroyed by the Taliban; and Khalil Ahmed Hassani, a former Taliban torturer who admits to breaking the spines of men then making them stand on their heads.
Christina Lamb's evocative reporting brings to life these stories. Her unique perspective on Afghanistan and deep passion for the people she writes about makes this the definitive account of the tragic plight of a proud nation.