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L'ÉPOQUE USA raises the voice of Afghan women who are deprived of reading books

L'ÉPOQUE USA - Although we consider reading books a regular activity in the rest of the world, the Taliban closed the last library for Afghan women since March 2023. Since then, even reading a simple book has become a mission impossible for the women of this country dominated by the Taliban and their inhuman and senseless restrictions.

05.18.2023 © L'ÉPOQUE USA

By Nereides Antonio Giamundo de Bourbon

Afghan women.
Afghan women © Mohammad Ismail

Across physical borders, the book represents the most beautiful invention of the exchange of ideas and embodies a powerful tool for fighting poverty and building lasting peace.

But Afghan women have been banned from reading, and their freedom is once again in jeopardy.

L'ÉPOQUE USA has therefore decided to let one of the women speak for her freedom and that of other Afghan women.

For security reasons, we have decided to keep her identity secret, but we are pleased to publish an account given to us directly by this courageous woman, whom we will call "Maryam" hereafter, a women's rights activist from Afghanistan.

Afghan women © L'ÉPOQUE.
Afghan women © L'ÉPOQUE.

The word to Maryam and other Afghan women:

«About two years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed a series of restrictions on women that excluded them from many government jobs and secondary schools. These restrictions confined Afghan women to their homes. This is the time when we Afghan women don't get discouraged and try to work around all these restrictions imposed by the Taliban. Since there is no permission or opportunity to learn outside our houses, we make every house a center for home schooling or online education. When I was looking for ways to help Afghan women and girls in the spring of 2022, I met a kind woman who has a lot of experience and is generous with both her heart and her time. I told her about my idea to start an online book club for Afghan women, but I didn't know how to go about it. She gave me advice and supported me in this initiative while I finally managed to start our book club.

I like books. We have had a small library in our house since 1995, since the early days of the Taliban. My family has guarded and cherished our books like a precious family heirloom. So I was convinced that empowering women and girls was a very good thing. We started our book club with a few women, and now, after almost a year, many more women from different parts of Afghanistan have become members of our book club.

Every two months, we feature a book with an author biography, and then our women readers share insightful topics on a daily basis. We also organize online meetings with Google Meeting or Zoom. This is a pleasant moment that everyone enjoys participating in. Most women prepare their notes to share at the meetings. Others participate to listen to each other and learn from each other's ideas.

Afghan women © L'ÉPOQUE.
Afghan women © L'ÉPOQUE.

I created our online book club for Afghan women to provide a way to connect with other women who share similar interests and experiences, and to enjoy the benefits of reading and discussing books. It's important to provide a safe and supportive space for women to express their opinions and feelings, especially in an environment where their voices and rights are being restricted by the Taliban. Our book club is a great initiative that helps women cope with the emotional trauma and stress of living under a violent and oppressive regime by offering them comfort, hope, and inspiration through books. One of the books we read last year is "I am Malala" by Christina Lamb, a biography of Malala Yousufzi, who lived under the Taliban regime in Pakistan. Malala's story is sad and heartbreaking, but it motivates other women and girls not to give up and fight for their lives and rights», Maryam said.

«Malala's story is one of great courage. Against all odds, which many can hardly imagine, she continued to fight for what she believes is right and stood up tirelessly against fear, threats and violence. Her courage encourages me to be braver, and her refusal to give in to fear reminds me that I should do the same», Morsal said.

«One of our goals is to expose women to different perspectives and cultures, reading books by various authors and genres, and learning from the experiences and perspectives of other women. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is another book that all our readers loved. The Alchemist is a story about a young shepherd boy named Santiago who pursues his dream of finding treasure under the Egyptian pyramids. The book is a fairy tale that inspires readers to listen to their hearts, risk adventure, and find meaning in all the signs of the universe», Maryam said.

«After reading The Alchemist, I learned that dreams are a path to our most important desires», Fatema said.

«Reading fosters a sense of community and belonging by creating friendships and connections with other women who love books and understand each other's struggles. It promotes lifelong learning and curiosity by encouraging women to read more, think critically, and explore new topics and ideas», Maryam said.

«Thanks for creating this initiative that helps us learn many new things and, above all, develop our minds and lives», Amina said.

«Finally, I'd like to thank the lady who supported me with my book club, other great people I met on my journey for two, and everyone who trusted me and encouraged and supported me in my mission to serve my country, especially Afghan women and girls», Maryam concluded.

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