The bookseller of Kabul


bookseller-of-kabulIts been ages since i wrote a post or even logged into wordpress to check on my blog. I guess i was either too busy or just didnt have the urge to write anything.  So all i have been doing for these past few days is just reading, and damn have i read a ton of books and i thought ill just share a little bit about them. Long time back i came across this topic “The bookseller of Kabul” but then its always hard to find a well known book here in Sri Lanka as soon as its launched.  So once i got my hands on this i just couldn’t put it down. The book is based around a true story of a Russian author who chose to live with one of the most famous booksellers in Kabul to understand the culture and the lives of the people.

In my view the book was excellent. The book tells a story of the booksellers family and what they go through specially once the Taliban regime entered Kabul. The way they burnt his books and forbid people to ever read again and the way they coloured every picture of any living organism in his books so that no one will ever see them and be corrupted as they say.  Whats surprising is that Sultan Khan (Bookseller) was always a modernized man who believed in freedom and human rights.. but the irony is that it never reached to the extent of his family. The females of his family had to still obey him and cover themselves up and ask his permission before they chose to do anything.

When the Taliban Rilled into Kabul in September 1996 16 decrees were broadcast on Radio Sharia as follows.

1) Prohibition against female Exposure

2) Prohibition against music

3) Prohibition against shaving

4) Mandatory Prayer

5) Prohibition against the rearing of pigeons and bird fighting

6) Eradication of narcotics and the users thereof

7) Prohibition against kite flying

8) Prohibition against reproduction of pictures

9)Prohibition against gambling

10) Prohibition against British and American Hairstyles

11) Prohibition against interest on loans, exchange charges and charges on transactions.

12) Prohibition against washing of clothes near river embankments

13) Prohibition against music and dancing at weddings

14) Prohibition against playing drums

15) Prohibition against tailors sewing womens clothes or taking measurements of women

16) prohibition against witchcraft

“Shakila is sitting on the only piece of furniture in the room, a sofa which has been brought in for the occasion. She watches from a distance and is forbidden to either smile or dance. Happiness would hurt the mother she is leaving, sorrow irritate the future mother in law. A brides face must be non committal, she is not supposed to turn her head or look around, but must stare fixedly straight ahead.”

“She is waiting for wakil to be let into her so they can walk out together. He enters rather shyly, they greet each other, eyes on the floor as demanded, they walk out, shoulder to shoulder, without looking at each other. When they stop they must each try to put one foot over the others. The winner is declared the boss of the marriage. Two chairs have been put out in the yard. They must sit down at the same time. If the groom sits down first the bride will dominate all decisions.”

Its an overwhelming book, specially when you consider all the rules and regulations they put up with and go through. We could only think and assume how tough it is for women who live in those countries. The only change you see is that once the Taliban left the singing and dancing all commenced once again but still.. there are certain rules and laws that the people of kabul, or more or less the men refuse to let go of, as they dont want to lose the control they have on the women of Kabul.


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