Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

Posted by nliakos on April 1, 2015

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (Harper 2011; ISBN 978-0-06-173237-9)

Kamila Sidiqi had just graduated from a teacher training institute in Kabul, Afghanistan, when the Taliban took over and forbade women and girls to work or go to school. Trapped at home with her sisters and one brother after her father and second brother fled the city and then the country, Kamila started a dressmaking business out of her home. Her older sister Malika taught her to sew, and Kamila then taught her younger sisters. Before long, she was employing other girls and young women in her Kabul neighborhood of Khair Khana; she even started a school to teach them tailoring and sewing. Although the Taliban did not expressly forbid women to work out of their homes, going out to market her products to male shopkeepers was strictly forbidden, and Kamila risked everything each time she did this, even though her younger brother always escorted her as her mahram, or chaperone. Eventually, Kamila even went to work for the UN Habitat’s Community Forum, becoming an activist in her community (a big risk). Perhaps surprisingly, she is never arrested or beaten by the Amr bil-Maroof, religious fanatics who routinely beat up women whom they perceived as deviated from the rules they were supposed to follow. In fact, as told by Lemmon, Kamila’s story is relatively painless. She worries a lot, but nothing awful ever happens to them. Even learning to sew seems to take little time and effort. I suspect that the journey may have in fact been rougher than described here, but Kamila’s story is still inspiring and serves as a reminder of the suffering of Afghan people (especially women, but whole families as well) under the rule of the Taliban.

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