Khaled Hosseini introduced me to Afghanistan, to its beauty and dark present. From Zoya, a twenty-three-year-old girl who escaped Afghanistan before it got worse, I understood how a war-torn country looks like. As the back cover of Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Woman’s Struggle for Freedom says, “Kabul was always more beautiful in the snow. Even the pile of rotting rubbish in my street, the only source of food for the scrawny chickens and goats that our neighbors kept outside their mud houses, looked beautiful to me after the snow had covered them in white during the long night.”
Born in Afghanistan, a land ruled and taken by monsters, Zoya saw everything since she was a child. Both her parents used to undertake secret work against fundamentalists. When most of the Afghanistan was burning under the Russian regime, Zoya’s mother was working with RAWA, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. A secret society that undertook the task of making the world aware of what Afghan people are facing under Russian regime. How their beautiful country was being torn down a bit by bit every day.
One day, her father never came back, and soon after few days, her mother. Zoya was then taken by her grandmother to Pakistan so that they can be safe over there and Zoya can have a normal life as a child. But soon enough, Zoya grew up to follow her mother’s footsteps. She rejoined RAWA and started undertaking missions to Afghanistan and refugee camp sites of Pakistan. And on such trips when a reader accompanies Zoya, chilling details of Taliban regime surface.
The barbaric assassinations, women begging and being beaten up in the streets, children amputated and left on the streets to die, the fundamentalism that was seeped deep into the veins of Afghanistan, houses were torn apart by bullets and bombs, women taken from their homes to be raped and tortured. Young Hazara boys being captured and molested by Taliban and the constant battle of hearts and soul. The fighters that were created to save Afghanistan were slowly destroying it and the civilians were being crushed under it.
On the other hand, Zoya was learning everything that she could to destroy the evil. An oath was taken in childhood, that she will relieve her country from the clutches of this demon, and she was now working towards it. Taking undercover trips to recruit new members for RAWA, trying to help as many people and children as possible, Zoya and her RAWA colleagues took various risks to make people aware globally about atrocities that take place in Afghanistan.
And somewhere in between, 9/11 happened. And another country decided to ravage war on Afghanistan and Taliban in 2001 under the name of Northern Alliance. Northern Alliance was created to save Afghanistan from the clutches of Taliban and its diktat. But as they say, when two elephants fight, the grass under them crushes to all extent. And that’s exactly what happened with Afghan civilians. Now after millions murdered including the general public, where does Afghanistan stand today?
Zoya’s story is a powerful book that vividly brings out the realities in a direct and unsentimental way. The facts are clear from the beginning, with a special emphasis on RAWA, an organization that is still trying to regain their lost homeland and it’s glorious days. After reading the book I went through RAWA’s site where I could see exemplary work being undertaken for Afghan children and youth. And then I came across the gallery section when goosebumps started coming. A bucketful of pictures showing the crude reality of Afghanistan, right from the Soviet Era.
We don’t get to see the atrocities that happen all over the world through our own eyes, many of them hidden some way or the other. But realistic books like these show you a true picture. Many times my parents have asked me why do I read such heavy books, and I always tell them that even when I can’t do anything about it, it is important to know what is happening. Zoya’s story is a brilliant memoir of a girl who is just like me but stuck in a very opposite situation where she has lost everything to fundamentalism and is now in an alien country trying to fight for others, so that they don’t face a fate like her. It’s a must read.