A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan
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Execution of Zarmeena

Execution of Zarmeena | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
Hannah Spenadel's insight:

This photo shows a woman named Zarmeena, who was accused of murdering her husband, being executed before tens of thousands of spectators, including her children. In the novel, Mariam is executed for the same crime, and the execution is carried out in a similar manner. The article "Political Execution of a Woman" told the story of Zarmeena, a woman who endured beatings from her husband every night. She conspired to kill her husband with her daughter, but her daughter was the one to murder him, even though she was not the one accused of the crime.

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Who are the Taliban?

Who are the Taliban? | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
BBC News looks at the history of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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"The hardline Islamic Taliban movement has proved to be a formidable fighting force in Afghanistan and a major threat to its government" (Simpson). The Taliban was a Pashtun movement that formed after Soviet troops retreated from Afghanistan in the 1990s. In 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul with minimal bloodshed. Although the Taliban initially promised to bring security to the country and were welcomed by the Afghans with open arms, they introduced strict Shari'ah laws, with punishments reminiscent of the Middle Ages. Before the attacks on U.S. soil on September 11th, 2001, Pakistan was one of the only three countries that acknowledged that Taliban regime as the official government of Afghanistan. The Taliban in Pakistan has a disturbing amount of influence in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, despite the efforts of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz to crack down on the Taliban's terrorist actions in Pakistan such as suicide bombing. The Pakistani Taliban was accused by the international community for shooting a fourteen year old girl when she was on her way home from school. When the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders to the United States, a coalition that was predominantly American went into Afghanistan, removing the Taliban from power. Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was not captured, and is suspected to be hiding in Pakistan, leading the Taliban movement there.

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Inside The Taliban [National Geographic] - YouTube

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Hannah Spenadel's insight:

As the name of the documentary implies, Inside the Taliban reveals insider perspectives, the rise of the Taliban, and the evolution of the Taliban. The narrator begins by telling about a respected war legend who fought for the Mujahideen against the Soviets named Mullah Mohammad Omar, who would eventually become the notorious leader of the Taliban. When King Zahir Shah’s four decade reign ended, nobody could have foreseen that the decades to follow would be fraught with war and humanitarian crises. Soviet Union's paranoia about America taking over Afghanistan to have an easy attack route to their country, led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979, where Soviet troops were met by guerrilla fighters known as the Mujahideen. After nearly a decade of fighting, the Soviets finally retreated, leaving the Mujahideen victorious. However, when the Mujahideen could not decide on a new government, a bloody civil war between the factions of the Mujahideen ensued. When news spread that a Mujahideen leader had kidnapped two teenage girls and they had been repeatedly sexually assaulted at the leader’s military base, former Mujahideen war veteran, Mullah Mohammad Omar, called upon a small force of men known as the Taliban to lead an attack on the base. The Taliban took the men by surprise, killing them all, rescuing the girls, and publicly hung the Mujahideen commander’s body from a tank. Omar’s followers went from a few dozen to thousands almost over night, and people initially supported them. In the summer of 1996, Osama bin Laden joined the Taliban, and bribed the last Mujahideen commander to surrender Kabul to the Taliban with millions of dollars out of his own pocket. According to the narrator of the documentary, "the Taliban believed that they had a divine right to rule over Afghanistan, based on an extreme interpretation of Shari'ah laws" (Inside the Taliban). The Taliban's newly instated strict laws were extremely oppressive, and had harsh repercussions for failing to adhere to these laws. Restrictions on women in particular were dehumanizing. Women were no longer allowed to attend school, to work, to travel outside of their homes without a male relative, and were required to always be covered in a head-to-toe burqa. The Taliban closed off roads in the winter, blocking food and supplies from the United Nations from being delivered to starving Hazaras, Shia muslims, who the Taliban viewed as nonbelievers of Islam. They began an ethnic cleansing, murdering more than five thousand Hazaras, including children. Civilian refugees fled to where the Northern Alliance, led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, resided. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden's strong friendship allowed bin Laden to set up terrorist training camps. However, soon after Mullah Omar felt threatened by Osama bin Laden when he "declared war on America" at a terrorist press conference, saying that all Muslims have the obligation to kill Americans. After U.S. embassies were bombed overseas, and Osama bin Laden was blamed, Mullah Omar was shocked. He continued to protect Osama bin Laden, and two days before 9/11, Al-Qaeda launched a secret plot that killed Ahmad Shah Massoud, which was bin Laden's twisted way of thanking Mullah Omar for keeping him safe. After the events of September 11, 2001, the United States remove the Taliban from power with strategic military operations. However, five years after Americans liberated Afghanistan from the reign of the Taliban, a new, more deadly Taliban organization grows. The new Taliban become notoriously known for their suicide bombings, and attacks on schools.

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Political Execution of a Woman

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Hannah Spenadel's insight:

In this article, "Political Execution of a Woman", the author describes the Taliban's rise to power, and emphasizes the restrictions put on Afghans, particularly women, under the Taliban's rule. After the Mujahideen defeated the Soviets, inner-tensions and corruption led to a deadly civil war amongst the factions of the Mujahideen. The downfall of the Mujahideen in turn allowed the rise of the Taliban to take place, who almost immediately began instating strict Shari'ah laws. These laws put severe limitations on women, forcing them to adhere to all laws immediately or face beatings, whippings, or even stoning to death if found to have committed adultery. The author references the story of Zarmeena, an Afghan mother in her mid-30s, who was forced into an arranged marriage at the young age of sixteen. In collaboration with her daughter, they discussed murdering Zarmeena's husband, who beat her on a daily basis. Although Zarmeena's daughter was the one to murder her father, Zarmeena was arrested and beaten for two days until finally confessing to her crime. Her execution took place at Kabul's Olympic Stadium, in front of 30,000 people, including all of her children, where she was shot in the head. The author wraps up the article by offering perspectives from the global community, explaining how American attention and interest shifted to Afghanistan after the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that were linked to Al-Qaeda who had ties with the Taliban. Lastly, the author mentions the American coalition that invaded Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks, inevitably removing the Taliban from power and liberating the nation.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns: Khaled Hosseini: 9781594483851: Amazon.com: Books

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Hannah Spenadel's insight:

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead Books, n.d. Print. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, a young girl named Mariam is living with her Nana in a secluded kolba outside of the city of Herat. Nana had an affair with a highly acclaimed, wealthy man named Jalil Khan, who already had three wives and many children. Jalil came to visit Mariam almost every Thursday, and often came bearing gifts. He described the outside world to her and on her birthday, she asked for him to take her to the theater he owned which was screening Pinocchio. After waiting for hours, when Jalil doesn't show up, Mariam crosses the river, and for the first time in her life, she descends into the world outside of the kolba. Upon arrival at Jalil's home, his personal chauffeur vouches for him and tells Mariam that Jalil has gone away. Mariam refuses to leave and ends up sleeping on the doorstep of his home, discovering in the morning that Jalil is at home when she glimpses him looking out from a window of his mansion. Feeling distraught and betrayed, Mariam is driven back to the  kolba by Jalil's chauffeur. The chauffeur tries to offer her consolation for her sorrows, when he sees Nana’s body hanging from a tree. He tries to avert Mariam's eyes, but she notices and feels a wave of guilt wash over her for leaving to seek out Jalil. After Nana's suicide, a funeral is held and Mariam moves into Jalil's house. Shortly after, one of Jalil's wives fetches her from her room where she has been sitting in solitude for days, and brings her downstairs. The wives explain to Mariam tat she has a suitor, attempting to reassure her that he will make a perfect husband. Mariam feels even more betrayed and when Jalil does not intervene, she begrudgingly accepts. Her suitor is a man named Rasheed, a widowed shoemaker that lives far from Herat, in Kabul. Their marriage is short and does not abide by all of the normal customs because Jalil's wives want to be rid of the reminder of their husband’s affair as soon as possible. Jalil promises to visit Mariam, but she refuses and spitefully tells him to never visit her. Rasheed is kind to Mariam at first, but then he starts to demand that she start acting like a dutiful wife and starts verbally as well as sexually abusing her. After her first miscarriage, he started physically and verbally abusing her more often. The story shifts to a young girl named Laila who lives down the street from Mariam and Rasheed. She has two brothers who are off fighting in the Afghani War against the Soviets, a reclusive mother, and an educated father. When they receive news that her brothers have been killed, Laila does not feel the extent of the loss that her mother and father do. She is captivated by Tariq, a neighbor that she has an unrequited love for. When the Mujahideen turn on one another and start fighting a very dangerous civil war, many Afghanis flee to Iran and Pakistan. After Tariq tells her that his family has intentions to leave Afghanistan, she pleads with her father to convince her mother to leave so they can be together. Before Tariq leaves for Pakistan with his family, he and Laila have pre-marital intercourse when her parents aren't home. He asks her to marry him and leave with his family, but she reluctantly declines, thinking of her father who she feels is dependent on her. Laila's father eventually convinces his wife to leave Afghanistan due to the dangers of the war, but while they are packing, a rocket strikes their home and kills both of her parents. The blast severely injures Laila, who is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam, who nurse her back to health. A man named Abdul Sharif brings news that Tariq is dead, and she realizes shortly after that she is pregnant with his child. Mariam suspects that Rasheed is trying to court Laila, and Laila reluctantly marries him. He is delighted when he discovers she is pregnant, which makes Mariam jealous and causes her to lash out at Laila, lecturing her on her duties and telling her to stay out of her way. Laila has a daughter named Aziza that becomes very fond of Mariam, which softens her resentment towards Laila. Mariam and Laila develop a strong friendship, defending one another against Rasheed, helping with chores, and spending time with each other. Laila has a son named Zalmai, Rasheed's pride and joy, who equally adores his father. When Rasheed's shoe factory is destroyed in a fire, the family is forced to put Aziza in an orphanage because Rasheed can't provide for all of them. In order to visit her daughter, Laila frequently faces physical abuse because she is unaccompanied by a man which is against the Taliban's rules. One day, Tariq shows up on her doorstep, and Laila discovers that Rasheed paid Abdul Sharif to lie about Tariq's death so she would agree to marry him. When Zalmai unintentionally tells his father about the man who came to visit Laila, Rasheed brutally beats her, locking his son in his room. As soon as Mariam realizes that Rasheed will kill Laila, she fetches a shovel, and murders him. She takes the blame for his death so Laila, Tariq, Aziza, and Zalmai can flee to Pakistan. She spends ten days in jail before being led to Ghazi Stadium, where she is killed in front of a large crowd of spectators for her crime. After working and living in Pakistan, Laila tells Tariq that she wants to return to Pakistan, now that American troops have cleared out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. When they  return, Laila seeks out Mullah Faizullah, who was Mariam's former teacher, and finds his son instead. She reads the previously unopened note that Jalil had left for Mariam, which was left along with a VHS tape of the movie Pinocchio and a portion of money from his will. Shortly after, Laila becomes a school teacher at the orphanage where Aziza lived. She finds out that she is pregnant and knows without a doubt that the baby will be named Mariam if it is a girl.

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Former Afghanistan President Najibullah and his brother tortured and murdered by the Taliban

Former Afghanistan President Najibullah and his brother tortured and murdered by the Taliban | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
Hannah Spenadel's insight:

In this photo, former Afghan President Najibullah and his brother are shown hanging from a street light. When the Taliban insurgents took over, they stormed the United Nations compound where the brothers were residing, torturing them before dragging them from a truck to their deaths. When the Taliban came to Kabul in the novel, Mariam, Laila, Rasheed, and Aziza witnessed firsthand the bodies hanging in front of an enormous crowd. Mariam later discovers the brutality the brothers endured before their deaths. This moment in the novel gives the characters a glimpse of the inhuman tactics the Taliban used to punish people they believed had committed crimes against Islam.

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BBC - Religions - Islam: Weddings

BBC - Religions - Islam: Weddings | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
This article looks at Muslim weddings and includes information on the ceremony, the law, arranged marriages and polygyny.
Hannah Spenadel's insight:

In this article, the author, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, describes Islamic marriage traditions and customs. Marriage is viewed as a binding social contract of mutual understanding and rights in Islam. The wedding contracts are made to be broken if necessary; either the husband or wife can file for divorce. Any pre-marital sexual interaction is extremely forbidden to all Muslims. Admiration and respect is shown towards husbands who take care of their wives well. Polygyny is normal and not uncommon, but a man can have no more than four wives at the same time. He is also required to treat all of them with equal respect and make sure that none of them become neglected. Muslims look for spouses based primarily off of their spirituality and devotion to religion, rather than appearances, wealth, or social class, which are viewed as trivial in comparison. Although arranged marriages are not a requirement, they are very common in Islam. However, parents are not allowed to force or trick their children into an arranged marriage. The husband must bestow Mahr upon the bride-to-be, which is a payment for her to hold onto and use as she sees fit. He is also expected to be able to provide for his family, whether or not the wife works as well. Muslim weddings are called nikahs, where typically the Qur'an is read from and the fiancées exchange wedding vows in front of at least two witnesses. Many newly-wed couples hold a feast called a walimah to publicly announce that they have been married.

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The Afghan War

The Afghan War | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
Hannah Spenadel's insight:

After a communist party overthrew the government in Afghanistan, forming close ties with the Soviet Union, violent rebellions ensued throughout the country. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviets were met by guerrilla fighters known as the Mujahideen. As the Afghan War reached a stalemate, the Soviets tried to put an end to the Mujahideen rebels, but they managed to evade their "surprise" attacks. In an attempt to lessen the Mujahideen's support from Afghanistan civilians, the Soviets used a tactic that targeted them, bombing rural areas and causing millions to flee to Pakistan. The United States provided the Mujahideen with a weapon that fired missiles with shocking accuracy at Soviet aircraft. With increasing financial support from Pakistan and the United States, the Mujahideen were able to force the Soviets to retreat back to Pakistan. However, inner conflict amongst the factions of the Mujahideen would lead to a devastating civil war, and allow the rise of the Taliban to occur.

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Map of Aghanistan

Map of Aghanistan | A Thousand Splendid Suns - Afghanistan | Scoop.it
Hannah Spenadel's insight:

Afghanistan is a country ravished by decades of war, leaving the country both politically and physically in shambles. The struggle for power led to humanitarian crises from lack of sanitation to hundreds of thousands of orphans to amputee victims of Taliban violence. While the country currently has a more stable political situation, the Taliban remains as a terrorist influence in neighboring country Pakistan, and most provinces remain in devastating conditions.

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