From Publishers Weekly
Not too long ago, this passionate, partisan book about Afghan women in particular, those associated with RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) might have attracted few readers. Originally planned as a study of a women's organization opposing fundamentalism, the book took on a new and more urgent tenor after September 11: to give "representation to the rural, the uneducated and the female members of the Afghan populace" and to convey the history and present-day role of RAWA, founded in 1977, long before the civil wars, as "the first women's organization whose members are willing to risk their lives explicitly for the issue of women's rights" and "the only group, male or female, to organize an underground resistance against [the Taliban]." Through affecting personal testimony from RAWA's members and supporters (including some men), sociologist and novelist Benard shows "how ordinary people are transformed into resistance fighters." Founded by a charismatic woman named Meena, RAWA's public work has been daring (publishing a bilingual Persian/Pashtu magazine, Payam-e-Zan ["Woman's Message"]) and dangerous (operating schools and medical facilities in refugee camps in the Afghan border area). Their clandestine work has been perilous they've smuggled endangered families to safety, moved survivors of massacres "out of the killing zone" and secretly photographed Taliban beatings, torture and executions. Benard, an adviser to RAWA and the wife of one of President Bush's Afghan advisers, writes with fervor and at times abandon ("Given that level of U.S. air support, a middle-school soccer team could have taken Kabul"). Addressing the physical, intellectual and emotional oppression of Afghan women, this is a powerful though clearly hastily assembled book.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A rich source of information. The history of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is told in simple, page-turning prose. There is a biographical sketch of the organization's heroic, charismatic, and martyred founder, Meena, along with a photo of her. Narratives describe how individuals, including indigent refugees, joined RAWA and became strong, clandestine freedom fighters against the oppressive rule of first the Soviet Communist invaders, then the Northern Alliance, and, finally, the Taliban. The descriptions of the organization's mission and its accomplishments in assisting and educating Afghan women and their families are inspiring. Students will read about many people, both male and female, young and old, who have suffered under the rule of violent misogynistic Islamic fundamentalists but have decided to fight for liberation, education, and literacy despite the threat of death, mutilation, and/or rape. Told from the perspectives of ordinary citizens, these stories contribute to an increased understanding of the situation in this country, and readers will come away with a greater respect for the bravery and courage of the women there.Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.