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The Lovers: Romeo and Juliet in Afghanistan PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Lovers: Romeo and Juliet in Afghanistan
Author: Rod Nordland
Publisher: Published January 26th 2016 by Ecco (first published June 9th 2015)
ISBN: 9780062378828
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Alternate cover edition here A riveting, real-life equivalent of The Kite Runner—an astonishingly powerful and profoundly moving story of a young couple willing to risk everything for love that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about women’s rights in the Muslim world. Zakia and Ali were from different tribes, but they grew up on neighboring farms in the hinterlands of Alternate cover edition here A riveting, real-life equivalent of The Kite Runner—an astonishingly powerful and profoundly moving story of a young couple willing to risk everything for love that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about women’s rights in the Muslim world. Zakia and Ali were from different tribes, but they grew up on neighboring farms in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. By the time they were young teenagers, Zakia, strikingly beautiful and fiercely opinionated, and Ali, shy and tender, had fallen in love. Defying their families, sectarian differences, cultural conventions, and Afghan civil and Islamic law, they ran away together only to live under constant threat from Zakia’s large and vengeful family, who have vowed to kill her to restore the family’s honor. They are still in hiding. Despite a decade of American good intentions, women in Afghanistan are still subjected to some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Rod Nordland, then the Kabul bureau chief of the New York Times, had watched these abuses unfold for years when he came upon Zakia and Ali, and has not only chronicled their plight, but has also shepherded them from danger. The Lovers will do for women’s rights generally what Malala’s story did for women’s education. It is an astonishing story about self-determination and the meaning of love that illustrates, as no policy book could, the limits of Western influence on fundamentalist Islamic culture and, at the same time, the need for change.

30 review for The Lovers: Romeo and Juliet in Afghanistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    There just are no words for this experience as researched and reported. Photos are as excellent and as instructive as the copy. It's just too tragic and portents such dire outcomes of the future for any cultural association, that I can type no more. Sincerely, I hope this couple can stay alive long enough to raise their daughter. And that all the people on the way who aided them! That they can remain alive in health themselves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anne-Marie O'Connor

    I began this book early in the evening, and couldn't put it down until well after midnight, until my kindle battery finally died. The story of this romance reads like a thriller, rendered with a wealth of detail that makes it compelling, vivid and immediate. This is the story of a forbidden love match in a society where marriages are carefully arranged by families. It reveals a world in which women are the property of fathers, husbands, and brothers, who answer the women's desire of individual a I began this book early in the evening, and couldn't put it down until well after midnight, until my kindle battery finally died. The story of this romance reads like a thriller, rendered with a wealth of detail that makes it compelling, vivid and immediate. This is the story of a forbidden love match in a society where marriages are carefully arranged by families. It reveals a world in which women are the property of fathers, husbands, and brothers, who answer the women's desire of individual autonomy with the "honor" killings reserved for women who have transgressed this patriarchal code. It reveals the obstacles faced not just by one Afghan woman, but all Afghan women, and any Afghans who do not conform to a male-dominated tribal society that has proven fertile kindling for extremism. As Nordland peels away the layers of this world, recounting romantic Afghan poetry, folk tales, and social attitudes, he reveals an awakening struggle against coercive "cultural" practices that eclipse any new laws put into place to prevent such things as the marriage of child brides to older men, stonings of women who speak to a man surreptitiously by cell phone--and the punishment of errant couples like these lovers. The author offers up some very interesting less-reported nuggets of history. Such as his conclusion, after many years of reporting in Afghanistan, that the Afghan mujahideen's resistance to Communism was fueled in great part by the Soviet attempt to elevate the status of women. In his view: "At its heart the jihad was not a response to Communism, it was holy war against feminism. In the narrow worldview of Afghanistan's jihadis, Communism and feminism were synonymous." If this is true, then why haven't we heard more about it, from reporters, who sometimes glamorized the mujahideen back in the 1980s, and American policymakers, who supported them? These historic tidbits alone are worth of the price of admission. This is a meticulously reported account by one of the rare reporters who cover the status of women, not as an obscure subplot, but with urgency, as if it were important to the destiny of a country, or a region. In one of Nordland's stories, an Afghan senator tell him women must be allowed to participate in the country's peace talks: "Because women want peace more than men do." The book is also an interesting meditation on the the social forces that conspire against individualism and autonomy in many traditional societies. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand this region, and any place in the world where the strictures imposed on one sector of the population have the power to hold back entire countries.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Mixed feelings. The book operates on a couple of levels; one, the story of Zakia and Ali, the "star-crossed" lovers of the title; the other, as a glimpse into life in Afghanistan, a place where Western ideas about women and their rights might or might not--mostly not--be welcome. Zakia and Ali choose each other, triggering attempts from Zakia's family to kill her for their--yes, I have to put this in quotes--"honor." Ali's family, particularly his father, support the young couple, as do a cast o Mixed feelings. The book operates on a couple of levels; one, the story of Zakia and Ali, the "star-crossed" lovers of the title; the other, as a glimpse into life in Afghanistan, a place where Western ideas about women and their rights might or might not--mostly not--be welcome. Zakia and Ali choose each other, triggering attempts from Zakia's family to kill her for their--yes, I have to put this in quotes--"honor." Ali's family, particularly his father, support the young couple, as do a cast of characters including Rod Nordland, the author and NY Times reporter, and a number of Afghan women officials and workers in shelters for women. As of the end of the book, after a number of adventures (spoiler alert!!) Zakia and Ali are still together, living, somewhat precariously, in their hometown of Bamiyan, and have a little girl. Their options are sadly limited in terms of trying to find safety in another country; what's even more painful, as becomes clear in the book, is that theirs is by no means an isolated story, or even confined to a particular class or area. Even some of the women who are involved in working at women's shelters say they can't protect themselves from violence by their husbands. As a Westerner, reading this book, I felt like I needed to know more about the culture history of Afghanistan and how women's lives came to be held so cheap. Nordland tells some of that history, but it is constricted by the Zakia/Ali story. Worth a read, but generated the need for more reading. And questions!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I think Zakia and Ali's story is a story worth telling, especially because it speaks to dangerous cultural norms in Afghanistan. It also contributes to a wider narrative about ensuring the rights of women around the world. However, I'm not sure that Rod Nordland did their story justice. To me, it seems like he is self-congratulating himself on considering ethical implications and then helping them anyway. Further, he continuously uses the word "backwards" when discussing Afghans, which I find to I think Zakia and Ali's story is a story worth telling, especially because it speaks to dangerous cultural norms in Afghanistan. It also contributes to a wider narrative about ensuring the rights of women around the world. However, I'm not sure that Rod Nordland did their story justice. To me, it seems like he is self-congratulating himself on considering ethical implications and then helping them anyway. Further, he continuously uses the word "backwards" when discussing Afghans, which I find to be in extremely bad taste. He constantly criticizes the people he writes about, as though he knows that they won't be able to read it (the two main characters are illiterate). Nordland could have written a book about Afghanistan that includes their story, rather than writing a book that feels so exploitative of their poverty and ignorance of the world. Jeesh.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ken Dowell

    The Lovers is a love story. Of course it is. But it’s also a news story. A news story about women’s rights. A news story about what U.S. intervention has and hasn’t done in Afghanistan. And a news story about some of the most backward social customs on earth. The author, Rod Nordland, is a journalist who at one time was the New York Times Kabul bureau chief. He was on the hunt for a story about an honor killing. Instead he found the story of an Afghani Romeo and Juliet. Zakia and Ali are illitera The Lovers is a love story. Of course it is. But it’s also a news story. A news story about women’s rights. A news story about what U.S. intervention has and hasn’t done in Afghanistan. And a news story about some of the most backward social customs on earth. The author, Rod Nordland, is a journalist who at one time was the New York Times Kabul bureau chief. He was on the hunt for a story about an honor killing. Instead he found the story of an Afghani Romeo and Juliet. Zakia and Ali are illiterate peasants from a remote region of Afghanistan where they met when their farming families worked side-by-side in the fields. They had never seen a TV or a personal computer and had never been on the Internet. Zakia is Tajik, a Sunni Muslim. Ali is Hazara, a Shia Muslim. They are now in hiding from Zakia’s family who are out to kill them. Zakia’s crime: she fell in love with Ali, and at age 18 ran away with him and married him. That, in Afghanistan, is wrong in so many ways. First there’s the ethnic mismatch. Then there’s the fact that Afghani girls and women are generally considered the property of their men, whether it be father or husband, and thus not free to make their own decisions about who they should marry. And last, but sadly not least, ‘what will the neighbors say?’ Nordland quotes Maniztha Naderi, executive director of one of the women’s shelters that at one time protected Zakia, “...most families think this way in Afghanistan. They would rather kill their female family members if they are thought to have committed wrongdoing than lose face in the community.” During a stop at the Montclair Public Library to promote the book, Nordland suggested that Afghanistan might be the worst place on the planet to be a woman. He compared the status of women in that country to what it was for European women in the 1600’s. Maybe none of that comes as a surprise, but reading some of the details is nonetheless shocking: -- “The age at which many girls are married in Afghanistan would be considered criminal sexual abuse in most countries." -- “Though a daughter can bring a substantial bride price to their fathers, they are disdained. Many Afghan men don’t even know how many daughters they have." -- “It is plausible, and even commonplace, for a father to tie a neka (formally marry) his daughter without her presence." --“Under Afghan penal code even rape was not a crime." -- “Baad is a common practice, in which young girls are exchanged to compensate for a marital infidelity, a murder or other transgression, or just to settle a debt.” -- Another unique Afghan crime is Zina, which is attempted adultery. In some rural areas if a woman is found out on her own she can be apprehended by police and given a virginity test, which determines whether she will be charged with adultery or attempted adultery. Zakia is not the only Afghan woman hiding from her family. Nordland also reports on the story of Breshna, a 10-year-old girl who was brutally raped by a mullah in a mosque. Breshna was protected in a women’s shelter from a family that threatened to kill her. Ultimately the shelter turned Breshna back over to her family when they vowed not to kill her. So instead they solved their “honor” problem by forcing her to marry her rapist. Journalists are trained to report on the story not become part of it. To his credit, Nordland admittedly ‘crossed the line’ on this one. “It came down to this: abandon your principles and stick to your humanity or stick to your principles and abandon your humanity.” So he and some colleagues have tried to help the couple, shuttling them around in their car and funneling money to them that has come from American donors who read their story. Where he didn’t get any help was at the American Embassy. Apparently they were concerned about intervening and offending the sensibilities of the government with which they are supposed to be allied. Norland’s comment: “Give me break. We’re not talking here about a woman who wants to put on a miniskirt and dance at the disco – she wants to marry the man she loves and live an Islamic, religious life.” According to Nordland, the U.S. has made an investment of more than $1.2 million to promote women’s rights. The shelters that protected Zakia, Breshna and others are largely American financed. Some of our efforts, however, border on the ludicrous. Consider this one: There was a “$35 million ‘go fly a rule-of-law kite’ program, dreamed up and funded by a United States Agency for International Development contractor. Their idea was to stage a public event at which they would hand out kites, comic books and posters with slogans printed on them touting equal rights for women and respect for the rule of law. Hundreds of kids and some adults showed up. First, no one could read the slogans on the kites and poster, let along the text-heavy comic books. Then handing out the kites went badly awry when policemen systematically stole them from the kids who had come, in order to take them home to their own children, beating some of the kids at the event with sticks when they didn’t cooperate. Finally, gender equality was hard to come by. The few times any girls got their hands on the free kites, their fathers took them away and gave them to their sons instead.” When you consider that this young couple, whose lives are endangered, cannot get any help from the U.S., despite the large number of private American citizens willing to help and support them, it is totally infuriating to listen to the blowhards and posers who are running for president with the promise that they will ban Muslim immigration. Personally I’d much prefer to welcome Ali and Zakia to my home than Trump or Cruz. This is a story with no end. Zakia and Ali managed to flee Afghanistan once going to Tajikistan, largely because it was the one place they could go where they could understand the language. Tajikistan is, in Nordland’s words “a country characterized by pimping policemen and roving drug dealers.” So the couple was robbed by police of the donated money they were carrying, Zakia’s jewelry and all of their possessions. And though they were deported and driven to the border, they had a bit of trouble crossing back into Afghanistan due to the border police who were expecting a bribe. Zakia has given birth while they were on the run. They now have a daughter who Ali maintains will be able to choose her own marital partner. This is a story with no end. As of a month ago when I heard Nordland speak, Ali and Zakia are still in Afghanistan, still in hiding, and still in danger.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hanson

    Actual Rating: 3.5 This book is both incredibly inspiring and completely frustrating. On the one hand, it shows the power of love and how two young people are willing to risk everything just to be together. Plus, it shows how willing people around the world are to help them. On the other hand, it also showcases just how difficult it can be to enact social change in third world countries. The challenge of breaking through social mores and traditions that had been in place for years is extremely di Actual Rating: 3.5 This book is both incredibly inspiring and completely frustrating. On the one hand, it shows the power of love and how two young people are willing to risk everything just to be together. Plus, it shows how willing people around the world are to help them. On the other hand, it also showcases just how difficult it can be to enact social change in third world countries. The challenge of breaking through social mores and traditions that had been in place for years is extremely difficult. It is shocking how completely and violently Zakia's whole family turned on her, and the desperate lengths they were willing to go to kill their own family member. Also, the couple themselves are young and have no education. This lead to them making a ton of bad decisions. Plus, it still seems that even though they are a bit more enlightened than previous generations, Ali still expects his wife to be obedient to him and Zakia also seems to go along with this. Also, I'm still not sure how I feel about the writer. He certainly helped them (I looked it up and as of May 2016 the couple was applying for assylum in New York City), but the publicity seems to be a double-edged sword, showing the couple to both their enemies and potential allies. This book shows that even now after the Taliban has been gone for many years, Afghanistan is still going through a lot of social change and when it comes to resolving issues like violence against women there are no easy answers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janice Forman

    Although this book tells the triumphant story of how Zakia and Ali defied their families and escaped an honour killing, I found the book depressing. The Afghanistan culture is so radically different than ours and so steeped in the importance of honour, I have difficulty in foreseeing any changes, particularly for women. I often question why we believe our culture is better than another countries and I feel we need to sometimes step back and respect the diversity of cultures. However, I am left w Although this book tells the triumphant story of how Zakia and Ali defied their families and escaped an honour killing, I found the book depressing. The Afghanistan culture is so radically different than ours and so steeped in the importance of honour, I have difficulty in foreseeing any changes, particularly for women. I often question why we believe our culture is better than another countries and I feel we need to sometimes step back and respect the diversity of cultures. However, I am left with the feeling that this culture has a long way to go before I could look at it with respect. When cultural practices such as public stoning, child marriages, and legalized rape are so deeply ingrained, it is difficult to believe that any changes will take place soon. Technically, Afghan has outlawed these practices, but they remain. This is still a good read and provides the reader with an insight into Afghanistan. Rod Nordland has provided an excellent window into the world of Afghanistan, particularly in the rural areas.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    A true horror story of what it is like to be a woman in Afghanistan. And whatever little progress has been made is sure to end as soon as Western soldiers leave the country.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gsmyles

    Long and repetitive in many aspects, but interesting to learn about honor killing and the horrors of falling in love in Afghanistan. The book went on forever and felt like I was reading the same plot over and over as the two main characters hide, move, hide, move, ask for money, hide, ask for money, hide, etc.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl marry and live happily ever after. Right? Wrong! This feel-good, stereotypical, romantic story may play out time and again in many parts of the world—but not in Afghanistan. Rod Nordland’s remarkable true story is about the forces of culture, religion, and deep-rooted corruption in a male-dominated country. Ultimately, it is also a story of the steadfast, spirited, and simple power of love between two people and their indomitable determi Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl marry and live happily ever after. Right? Wrong! This feel-good, stereotypical, romantic story may play out time and again in many parts of the world—but not in Afghanistan. Rod Nordland’s remarkable true story is about the forces of culture, religion, and deep-rooted corruption in a male-dominated country. Ultimately, it is also a story of the steadfast, spirited, and simple power of love between two people and their indomitable determination to choose how to live their lives. The girl is Zakia, beautiful daughter of Zaman and Sabza; the boy is Ali, third son of Anwar and Chaman. He is 21, she is 18. They live on small adjacent farms divided by no more than a dirt road. However, Zakia is Tajik, Ali is Hazara; she is Sunni, he is Shia. An open-minded, rational person may ask, “So what?” But even today, these differences alone are insurmountable barriers to a marriage, even one based on mutual love. In Afghanistan, cultural, ethnic, and religious traditions are inviolable and sacrosanct. Zakia and Ali dare to embrace their fate and elope. And so begins a desperate and dangerous journey of hide-and-seek. The couple are relentlessly pursued by Zakia’s father and brothers, and subsequently by the police, to punish them for betraying family honor. They must constantly be on the move: they hide in the barren, rugged Afghan mountains; they take refuge in shelters and with sympathetic but reluctant relatives; and they occasionally “hide in plain sight” in Kabul, the country’s busy, bustling capital. If the couple are caught, it will mean certain death for Zakia—incredibly, at the hands of her father and brothers in an “honor killing.” In Afghan tradition, the only punishment for betraying family honor is death. A woman in Afghanistan is considered nothing more than “a man’s property,” either of a father, a brother, or a husband. Her only purpose in life is to be given away in marriage, and then to serve husband and family without question. She has zero say in directing the course of her life; she is almost regarded as not human. If a man has two sons and three daughters, he will say he has two children. The quality most admired by Afghan men in a woman is blind, unquestioning obedience. A girl who dares to oppose anything by her “male owner” can instantly suffer an honor killing. Reporter Rod Nordland stumbles onto this stirring love story, writes several articles in the New York Times, and instantly catapults Zakia and Ali into the world’s spotlight. Massive criticism—and large amounts of money—flow in to help the couple, but things are hardly easy or straightforward in corrupt Afghanistan. Citizens and authorities are fiercely protective of their customs, as primitive and backward as they may seem to others. To make matters worse, Zakia and Ali are completely illiterate and unable to help themselves much. Nordland has written a riveting, breathless account of the lovers’ existence on the run. Inevitably, he soon crosses over the line from journalistic objectivity to humane compassion for the couple. He moves from observer to actor in this compelling drama. But more than just a poignant love story, this book is a vivid indictment of the chronic abuse of women in Afghanistan, and the equally stark inability of the rest of the world to do much about it. A series of color photographs bring to life the hostile terrain and the hard reality of total subjection of women based on nothing but gender. Nordland also adds two sections of thoughtful, illuminating supplementary material in the form of “The Jihad Against Women,” and “Other Battles in the Afghan War of the Sexes,” bringing The Lovers right into the contemporary global politics of 2016. But if readers find Zakia and Ali’s story desperately sad, this additional material will frustrate and anger them beyond consolation. Nordland laments the fact that in post-Taliban Afghanistan, billions of dollars have been spent on women’s rights with little or no improvement since 2002. The Lovers will warm, and then break the hearts of readers. It will leave them incredulous, and even fill them with a sense of shame on behalf of the world that such brutality and abuse against women can exist in the 21st century. This is a necessary, urgent book for modern times.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betsy D.

    This book was incredibly eye-opening, and did not make for a light read (but it was riveting!). I need to go with something a little happier next, I think! Rod Nordland does an amazing job of making the book read like a novel, although it's a true story. Most importantly, though, I felt that for once I have a passable grasp on the real issues in Afghanistan. It was hard to read, but important to note that the jihad that we hear of is actually a "jihad against women." Most of the issues that the This book was incredibly eye-opening, and did not make for a light read (but it was riveting!). I need to go with something a little happier next, I think! Rod Nordland does an amazing job of making the book read like a novel, although it's a true story. Most importantly, though, I felt that for once I have a passable grasp on the real issues in Afghanistan. It was hard to read, but important to note that the jihad that we hear of is actually a "jihad against women." Most of the issues that the Western world has with Afghanistan (and vice versa) can in some way be traced back to their attitudes to women. In a recent study, Afghanistan was labeled as the worst country in the world to be born a woman. In spite of all of that, the love story in this book was incredible. It makes me wonder how many of the love stories in the U.S. would hold up under the extreme pressures that this romance faced. Honor killing, disowning by family members, beatings, and child marriages... and through it all, these two insisted that they would do anything to be together. And they have! The only unsatisfying part is that the dispute over their marriage is still not resolved to this day. Zakia's family still threatens her life. They are living in relative peace at the moment. This was a difficult but important read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I learned so much from this book about honor killing, patriarchal dominance, police and mullah corruption, and humanitarian aid through changing laws and the establishment of safe houses for women and girls subjected to rape, abuse, child brides, and attempted murders by their family. The reporting and true story of two Afghanistan youths, Zakia and Muhammad Ali, both from different ethnicities and religions being hunted by Zakia's father and brothers to save "honor" of the family was horrific a I learned so much from this book about honor killing, patriarchal dominance, police and mullah corruption, and humanitarian aid through changing laws and the establishment of safe houses for women and girls subjected to rape, abuse, child brides, and attempted murders by their family. The reporting and true story of two Afghanistan youths, Zakia and Muhammad Ali, both from different ethnicities and religions being hunted by Zakia's father and brothers to save "honor" of the family was horrific and they were so brave to stand by their convictions. They eloped and were on the run within Afghanistan for several years. NYT reporter, Rod Nordland, first reported their story and with the help of others, including a New Jersey Rabbi Schmuly Boteach and benefactor Miriam Adelson, and the legal team from Women for Afghan Women (WAW), to date they have avoided being killed. I am still appalled by the medieval mindsets of the Afghan culture and religions to hold girls and women to such demeaning standards. When an Afghan father is asked how many children he has, he will only state the number of sons. Women only have one name and many people outside their immediate family will not know the names of the females. If a brokered marriage falls apart for some reason, the female's male family members will seek revenge on her so they do not lose their "honor." The women and girls are never seen as victims but only as perpetrators. Zakia and Ali's families (parents, siblings) are completely uneducated potato farmers. They live by traditions and suspicions established centuries ago. The "honor" killing is to keep women oppressed and to not challenge male authority. Organizations and laws have been established since 2009 to help women as they are awaiting trials, etc. one is Elimination of Violence Against Women passed in 2009 which defends women's rights against rape, wife beating, forced child marriages, and denial of relationships for true love versus traditional arranged marriages by the father or brothers. While in a safe house they are essentially imprisoned because if they go outside the safety of the house they will be killed. Nordland cites many other tragic stories of couples killed because they loved one another without the consent of the female's father and make family members. A horrific story was of Bibi Aisha, a child bride who ran away, and when captured her "husband" cut off her nose and one ear. She was brought to America through an aid organization for reconstructive surgery and has been adopted by a family in Virginia. Social media has helped the fate of some people by bringing their stories onto the global stage where it may be a bit more intimidating for the female's father and brothers to commit honor killing. The laws and customs are ancient. All the wars that have been fought and blood shed have not made a significant impact on the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    In America and the West, we take a lot of our freedoms for granted: free speech, freedom of religious belief, rights to due process under the law, etc. But love? The freedom to choose who we fall in love with and not worry about our families approval? Sadly, that is the case of women in Afghanistan and this book, by detailing the tribulations of two young Afghans who fell in love, sheds a light on how little things have improved for women in Afghanistan after 15 years of spilt blood and treasure In America and the West, we take a lot of our freedoms for granted: free speech, freedom of religious belief, rights to due process under the law, etc. But love? The freedom to choose who we fall in love with and not worry about our families approval? Sadly, that is the case of women in Afghanistan and this book, by detailing the tribulations of two young Afghans who fell in love, sheds a light on how little things have improved for women in Afghanistan after 15 years of spilt blood and treasure by the U.S. and its Western allies. There are so many different things to write about this book and very few of them don't make me want to dry heave into a paper bag. The two lovers are clearly brave, if not exactly the most thoughtful when it comes to making plans or trusting people. But who can really blame them? They've been used and betrayed by so many people in their struggles that it is hard not to have sympathy for them for that fact alone. What is also interesting is how involved the author, Mr. Nordland, became in the story. His plight to assist the lovers highlights the dilemma that all Westerners face when working in Afghanistan: to help prevent a tragedy, but potentially make matters worse, or allow the tragedy to run its course in the hope that things will work themselves out. Mr. Nordland may have sacrificed some journalistic integrity to assist the lovers, but I would argue that he was able to retain his humanity for it. The other great thing about this book is how Mr. Norland ties this case to other cases of abuse going on throughout Afghanistan. While alluding to different stories throughout the main narrative, Mr. Nordland adds two supplementary chapters at the end that go into detail about other cases of abuse and rape against women in Afghanistan and how Sisyphean a task it seems today. My emotions ran a gamut from sorrow through revulsion to outright indignation. Clearly there is a morally degeneracy so deep in Afghanistan right now that it calls into question everything that the West has been doing there since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Yet, at the same time, to pick up sticks and leave Afghanistan to its fate would be like blowing out a small candle in a large room already covered in darkness. I hope everyone, especially those who want to completely abandon the country right now, reads this book and remember that our work is not done. The Taliban is still out there and gaining ground and women are born into one of the worst places to be born a woman in the world. The road is long, but it is one that we must walk down for the future generations of lovers in Afghanistan.

  14. 5 out of 5

    May

    come find me in 3d for thoughts

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/boo...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alan Marchant

    Ignore the subtitle: parallels with Romeo and Juliet end with the fact that the protagonists, Ali and Zakia, are irrational young lovers. The journalist author injects himself excessively into both the lovers' circumstances and the telling of their story. On the other hand, this perspective increases the importance of the book as Nordland salts it with a cross-section of recent cases that illustrate the callousness and ubiquity of honor killing and misogyny throughout Afghanistan. Nordland sugges Ignore the subtitle: parallels with Romeo and Juliet end with the fact that the protagonists, Ali and Zakia, are irrational young lovers. The journalist author injects himself excessively into both the lovers' circumstances and the telling of their story. On the other hand, this perspective increases the importance of the book as Nordland salts it with a cross-section of recent cases that illustrate the callousness and ubiquity of honor killing and misogyny throughout Afghanistan. Nordland suggests three possible motives for the opposition of Zakia's family to Ali's courtship: religious intolerance (Sunni vs. Shia), racism (Tajik vs. Hazara), and social class (hereditary land-owners vs. serfs). But religion appears to be only a secondary attribute of racial/tribal affiliation, and the two families were economic equals, cooperatively working neighboring fields. So the fury of Zakia's family is probably motivated by racism. Nordland provides an interesting answer to the question, where is the honor in an honor killing? The confusion arises from mistranslation of a word that does not denote "moral obligation." The word instead refers to the principle of men owning their women. The shame that drives an honor killing arises from the unrequited loss of "wealth" and an obligation to reinforce the subservience of all women in the tribe. It's much more important to punish a suspect woman than an associated man, and evidence of her "innocence" does not relieve the demands of "honor." Nordland's examples suggest that this perverted concept of honor is a social construct that runs counter to personal moral instincts. One family, for instance, chose to fake an honor killing (to satisfy the locals) and then secretly send their children out of the country. Islam cannot be blamed directly for the evils of honor killing. But it continues to enable these practices by legitimizing slavery, undermining the rule of law, and profiting from tribalism. Afghanistan will continue to be a heart of darkness until Islam is reformed into a religion of virtue.

  17. 5 out of 5

    YT

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Long and repetitive. I chose this book out of interest of a love story in Afghanistan. It soon began to bother me. The first thing was that the characters Zakia and Ali were beyond naïve (trying not to use an offensive word). Many times their actions did not represent people that are about to die: not listening to advise, Ali going out for a wedding, Zakia not wanting to use the burka to conceal herself. The many times Ali tried to use the donor’s money for who knows what, only meeting with the Long and repetitive. I chose this book out of interest of a love story in Afghanistan. It soon began to bother me. The first thing was that the characters Zakia and Ali were beyond naïve (trying not to use an offensive word). Many times their actions did not represent people that are about to die: not listening to advise, Ali going out for a wedding, Zakia not wanting to use the burka to conceal herself. The many times Ali tried to use the donor’s money for who knows what, only meeting with the author when they needed money… Aside from the fact that they “loved” each other, Ali still tells Zakia what to do and expects her to obey; Zakia is still incapable of taking any decision and is ok with staying at home because she is a woman. The involvement of the author in this story was beyond professional, is he still working for the New York Times? In my opinion, he was after a story, this one in particular. It specially infuriated me how hard he fought for Zakia and Ali but did not help the 18 years old Russian solider, which he knew was being raped every day! Unless you count the miserable attempt when he gave the afghan man his knife. If you were in the military and fought the Afghan war, prepare to be told why you went there, which was to fight for Afghan democracy. The author will repeat the same stories over and over, when Zakia and Ali's story ends, the author undertakes the duty of explaining the life of Afgan women, it seems that he needed to fill out a quota and came short with Zakia and Ali's story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    Even though you can guess how this story goes, it is told in much more detail than most other examples from books and news stories. Zakia and Ali grew up as neighbors in a remote village in Afghanistan. They fell in love but were from different sects and so were forbidden. After they ran away, Zakia’s family pursued her to kill her to satisfy their tarnished honor. They twisted western and Islamic laws and created false documents to say that Zakia was already married. They lied to the courts and Even though you can guess how this story goes, it is told in much more detail than most other examples from books and news stories. Zakia and Ali grew up as neighbors in a remote village in Afghanistan. They fell in love but were from different sects and so were forbidden. After they ran away, Zakia’s family pursued her to kill her to satisfy their tarnished honor. They twisted western and Islamic laws and created false documents to say that Zakia was already married. They lied to the courts and the government by promising they would not harm her. As of the published date of this book, the couple are still in hiding in Afghanistan after several unsuccessful attempts to escape to another country. Their story exposes many of the treacherous and deceptive methods used by villagers to circumvent western-influenced laws of the Afghan government to enforce their tribal laws and customs and clear the dishonor by killing the offenders. This was so strong that they continued even to their own economic ruin. There are Appendices that provide shorter versions of similar stories about other couples with results varying from escape to death. A fascinating and disturbing look inside a relatively closed society and its strict cultural and religious rules that promote distrust of outsiders and oppression of women. This book shows that, especially among the younger generation, there is an almost instinctual yearning for things to be different.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sandi Miller

    Zakia was expected to marry someone her father chose for her. Afghani women are considered to be property that can be traded, sold, raped or killed at the whim of the men in their families. Falling in love with someone not approved by a father can be a terrifying experience. Zakia and her neighbor Ali loved each other enough to run away and live in hiding for years, with her family giving up their farm in order to hunt for them and kill her. Author Rod Norland is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Zakia was expected to marry someone her father chose for her. Afghani women are considered to be property that can be traded, sold, raped or killed at the whim of the men in their families. Falling in love with someone not approved by a father can be a terrifying experience. Zakia and her neighbor Ali loved each other enough to run away and live in hiding for years, with her family giving up their farm in order to hunt for them and kill her. Author Rod Norland is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times who was stationed in Afghanistan for years. He became very involved in Zakia and Ali's life, trying to help them escape. Although his book at times drags with unnecessary details, the in-depth discussion of human rights, or the lack of them, in Afghanistan is interesting and sadly enlightening. Yes, life under the Soviets was much better for Afghani women, and it was slowly improving after American removal of Taliban control. But judges and prosecutors often ignore the new laws, and women are still expected to stay home, unschooled and dedicated only to the happiness of the men who own them. The author discusses honor killings and other abuses taking place in today's Afghanistan. I expect this book to be made into a movie.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Astha Moudgil

    "The lovers" by 'Rod Nordland' is story of two lovers from rival communities, Zakia (Sunni) of Tajik ethnicity and Mohammad Ali (Shia) a Hazara, who against all odds (families unacceptance, social norms, culture, traditions, civil and Islamic laws) succeeded to escape their fate.. With a beautiful cover having a real photograph of Zakia and Mohammad Ali on the run, this book is equipped with a thorough map of the couple's movement, proper references and bibliography. The way 'Rod Nordland' has na "The lovers" by 'Rod Nordland' is story of two lovers from rival communities, Zakia (Sunni) of Tajik ethnicity and Mohammad Ali (Shia) a Hazara, who against all odds (families unacceptance, social norms, culture, traditions, civil and Islamic laws) succeeded to escape their fate.. With a beautiful cover having a real photograph of Zakia and Mohammad Ali on the run, this book is equipped with a thorough map of the couple's movement, proper references and bibliography. The way 'Rod Nordland' has narrated this whole story is quite gripping and enriched in details of Taliban infested Afghanistan... This book brings out the real picture of conditions of women's human rights and social status in Afghanistan and makes the reader think about whether it is the war, illiteracy, weak governance, corruption, weak judicial system, Taliban militancy, Mujahideen dominance or the unreasonable extremism which has brought Afghanistan in it's presented poor, socially backward, torn and tattered condition or (as rod nordland calls it is) war of the sexes- Jihad against women...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book is a visit to an "upside-down" world- a culture totally foreign to me. A world where, if a woman is raped, she should be killed to protect her family's honor. A world where, if a child is raped, she is forced to marry her rapist so it won't be considered adultery. A world where, if an unrelated couple is alone together, this means they must be committing adultery. This book tells the story of Ali and Zakia- they choose to love and marry. Both families object- this isn't how it's done, a This book is a visit to an "upside-down" world- a culture totally foreign to me. A world where, if a woman is raped, she should be killed to protect her family's honor. A world where, if a child is raped, she is forced to marry her rapist so it won't be considered adultery. A world where, if an unrelated couple is alone together, this means they must be committing adultery. This book tells the story of Ali and Zakia- they choose to love and marry. Both families object- this isn't how it's done, and they are from different tribes. They run away together- his family accepts their love and helps to protect Zakia, but her family does not. The book details their story, as well as the history that created this culture. It also tells a number of stories about other women, children and couples. Be prepared to be confused, horrified and enraged.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    i wanted to love it but i feel like it could've been written in a much more engaging way or edited better. there were a few chapters following the afterword that were super interesting and i wish had been incorporated into the beginning of the book to give the story a little more context upfront. (if you are going to read it, i'd read these chapters first). i desperately wish there was more that could be done to help women in Afghanistan and men who grow up with false conceptions of honor and pr i wanted to love it but i feel like it could've been written in a much more engaging way or edited better. there were a few chapters following the afterword that were super interesting and i wish had been incorporated into the beginning of the book to give the story a little more context upfront. (if you are going to read it, i'd read these chapters first). i desperately wish there was more that could be done to help women in Afghanistan and men who grow up with false conceptions of honor and property. such a sad problem. while reading about the intellectuals migrating to other places i couldn't blame them but also kept thinking, nothing will change if everyone against these practices and with the capacity to help those affected by them leave.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emerson Grossmith

    Not particularly crazy about this book--keep getting confused with all the names. I do like that the author ties in this story with other true ones from Afghanistan. A very screwed up country and it hasn't helped that Pakistan is its corrupt neighbour. Between Kabul and Pakistan, they have managed to bilk and milk the US and other nations of billions of dollars--quite perverse and shameful. Sandy Gall's book on Afghanistan points out how Karzai and Pakistan squandered a ton of money literally. Y Not particularly crazy about this book--keep getting confused with all the names. I do like that the author ties in this story with other true ones from Afghanistan. A very screwed up country and it hasn't helped that Pakistan is its corrupt neighbour. Between Kabul and Pakistan, they have managed to bilk and milk the US and other nations of billions of dollars--quite perverse and shameful. Sandy Gall's book on Afghanistan points out how Karzai and Pakistan squandered a ton of money literally. Yemen and Afghanistan share some of the same problems: mountainous, feudal, tribalism, fighting, religious battles, a kingdom gone haywire, commie rulers take over, more fighting, destitute citizens, Shia/Sunni problems, Taliban/Al Qaeda, being funded by the US...etc.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Wagner

    Spoiler - The title is a bit misleading - at the publishing of this book, they hadn't completely escaped the danger of an honor killing, but they were relatively safe. I've tried to find updates on the couple online, but there is nothing more recent than mid 2016. I was surprised how informative the appendices were, although they also made me ill to hear in graphic detail how women are treated in Afghanistan. I knew this, of course, but, again, reading it in detail truly made me ill and affected Spoiler - The title is a bit misleading - at the publishing of this book, they hadn't completely escaped the danger of an honor killing, but they were relatively safe. I've tried to find updates on the couple online, but there is nothing more recent than mid 2016. I was surprised how informative the appendices were, although they also made me ill to hear in graphic detail how women are treated in Afghanistan. I knew this, of course, but, again, reading it in detail truly made me ill and affected my mood for several days. Of Zakia and Ali, however, I was encouraged by their love through better and worse. Their devotion and love for one another puts the western world's divorce statistics to shame.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jill Robbertze

    The spellbinding and very recent, true story of 2 young people in love that just want to marry and live, what to us would be a "normal" life, but in Afghanistan where marriages are arranged and where it is especially not possible to marry someone from another tribe, this is usually not only impossible but deadly. Abuse of women is rife and "honour killings" by a girl's own family are common. What I find most shocking is that in this day and age positive changes for women in this region are not b The spellbinding and very recent, true story of 2 young people in love that just want to marry and live, what to us would be a "normal" life, but in Afghanistan where marriages are arranged and where it is especially not possible to marry someone from another tribe, this is usually not only impossible but deadly. Abuse of women is rife and "honour killings" by a girl's own family are common. What I find most shocking is that in this day and age positive changes for women in this region are not being made nearly soon enough. I am left wondering exactly how this story unfolds and hope there will be a sequel in the future.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I really liked the book and was captivated by the story of Zakia and Ali and their quest to be together. I admire Mr. Nordland for writing, and living, their story. It's a world I can't even imagine. Many times, the author referenced his necessity to walk the line between journalist, advocate and maybe even friend. I appreciate that after the story of Zakia andd Ali, Mr. Nordland took the time to talk about women's rights in Afghanistan. Worth the read, a little hard to get through quickly (foot I really liked the book and was captivated by the story of Zakia and Ali and their quest to be together. I admire Mr. Nordland for writing, and living, their story. It's a world I can't even imagine. Many times, the author referenced his necessity to walk the line between journalist, advocate and maybe even friend. I appreciate that after the story of Zakia andd Ali, Mr. Nordland took the time to talk about women's rights in Afghanistan. Worth the read, a little hard to get through quickly (footnotes, remembering "characters" in the story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chad Bunch

    Very interesting. Very disturbing. Deep insight into the way that the culture of Afghanistan treats girls and women. The meat of the story got dull at times, but I found myself worrying about the fate of the young lovers, especially Zakia, who faced a possible mercy killing by her own parents and siblings just for falling in love with the wrong man.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jane Thompson

    Afghan Story This is an interesting book; the story of young lovers who decided to flought the rules of their society by falling in love. Even though there is a tradition of romance, love is not allowed for women. This story tells about the anti woman laws of Afghanistan and how the women of the country are trapped by the laws and traditions that enslave them.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Myers

    Excellent true story about a couple's plight from their culture and family. The farm couple endure hardships of living in foreign cities, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, and being hunted as criminals all because they fell in love. The author fleshes out the story with other accounts of honor killings, rape, and the war against women. I really enjoyed this tale.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Though interested in Zakia and Ali's story, what was most impact me about this book was learning about the widespread oppression of women in Afghanistan. It was sickening. I just wish we could save them all.

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