Zoya’s Story allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the harsh regulations/restrictions places like Afghanistan and Pakistan enforce on women. Zoya was a child during the USSR occupation which began in 1979 and lasted 10 years. Throughout this occupation, over 1 million Afghans died and thousands fled to Pakistan in hopes of escaping persecution. Zoya was a child during the USSR occupation and was forced to relocate to Kabul, Pakistan in 1992 due to the influx of Mujahideen factions that took over and made it unsafe for her to continue living in Afghanistan.
Zoya was a brave young woman who was forced at a young age to make a decision that could have potentially ended her life. Zoya was used to having her voice silenced and not being able to have basic rights the men around her had.
Zoya could have easily succumbed to living a life most women in Afghanistan live, but she wanted more for herself and others. Her mother was Zoya’s inspiration, she was constantly out working and attending school despite the dangers that came along with it. Her father was also important to her, as he taught her the Persian language.
Her mother was an active member of the the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Zoya was eager to join and follow in her mother’s footsteps. RAWA sent members to refugee camps, where they would help people in need and guide them back into living a normal life. RAWA was an organization that allowed funds to be applied where they are needed. RAWA was where Zoya encouraged girls and boys to live a life greater than what the Taliban had in mind.
After gaining power in September 1996, the Taliban placed extreme restrictions on the women of Kabul, Pakistan. They did not allow women to leave their house without wearing the burqa, which was a veil that covered their whole face, girls were forbidden to go to school, have a job, could not leave the house without being accompanied by a male relative, and women could only be treated by women doctors. Women were also restricted from laughing in public.
One part in particular stood out to me: “I learned to write as if I had to defend the choice of every word. For years, I believed the more complicated a word, the more beautiful it was. But Soraya taught me to use words that were as simple as possible, partly because many Afghans could barely read and write.” This year I have learned the importance of writing in your most honest voice and being nothing but truthful in the words you write. People are capable of harshly judging things you write/stand for and in order to counteract it, you must “defend the choice of every word” like Zoya said. The book was also a good reminder of how lucky we are that the ability to read and write is a right most people have in the US.
Meena, the founder of RAWA, described the women of Afghanistan to be “sleeping lions who would become powerful when they finally awoke.” I thought this line to be incredibly true, these women have lost hope that there is a better life and opportunities out there for them. For so long, they have been accustomed to being belittled, and shunned for the simple fact that they are women. With figures such as Malala and Zoya, women are finally being ‘awakened’ and are realizing their capability and strength.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Taliban, cruelties women experience, and the positive ways people like Zoya overcome the inequality.