1. “A harami was an unwanted thing; she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home, acceptance.”
2. “What rich lies!” Nana said after Jalil left. “Rich man telling rich lies. He never took you to any tree. And don’t let him charm you. He betrayed us, your beloved father. He cast us out. He cast us out of his big fancy house like we were nothing to him. He did it happily.”
3. “Jalil didn’t have the will either, Nana said, to do the honorable thing. To stand up to his family, to his wives and inlaws, and accept responsibility for what he had done.
4. “That I forced myself on him. That it was my fault.Did you see? This is what it means to be a woman in this world.”
5. “Nana said, “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”
6. “A jinn had entered Nana’s body. This required no description to Mariam. She had witnessed it enough times with her own eyes: Nana collapsing suddenly, her body tightening, becoming rigid, her eyes rolling back, her arms and legs shaking as if something were throttling her from the inside, the froth at the corners of her mouth, white, sometimes pink with blood.”
7. “They’ll comfort you too, Mariam jo,” he said. “You can summon them in your time of need, and they won’t fail you. God’s words will never betray you, my girl”.
8. “Only one skill and it’s this: Endure.”
9. “It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have. Do you understand? Besides, they’ll laugh at you in school. They will. They’ll call you harami. They’ll say the most terrible things about you. I won’t have it.”
10. “Afghanistan is no longer a monarchy, Mariam. You see, it’s a republic now, and Daoud Khan is the president. There are rumors that the socialists in Kabul helped him take power.’
11. “I’m the only one who loves you. I’m all you have in this world, Mariam, and when I’m gone you’ll have nothing. You’ll have nothing. You are nothing!” – Nana to Mariam
12.”You’re afraid that I might find the happiness you never had. And you don’t want me to be happy. You don’t want a good life for me. You’re the one with the wretched heart.” Mariam to Nana
13. “Mariam wondered how so many women could suffer the same miserable luck, to have married, all of them, such dreadful men.”
14. “I have customers, Mariam, men, who bring their wives to my shop. The women come uncovered, they talk to me directly, look me in the eye without shame. They wear makeup and skirts that show their knees. Sometimes they even put their feet in front of me, the women do, for measurements, and their husbands stand there and watch. They allow it. They think nothing of a stranger touching their wives’ bare feet! They think they’re being modern men, intellectuals, on account of their education, I suppose. They don’t see that they’re spoiling their own nang and namoos, their honor and pride.” – Rasheed to Mariam
15. “There’s a teacher living down the street, Hakim is his name, and I see his wife Fariba all the time walking the streets alone with nothing on her head but a scarf. It embarrasses me, frankly, to see a man who’s lost control of his wife.”
16. “But I’m a different breed of man, Mariam. Where I come from, one wrong look, one improper word, and blood is spilled. Where I come from, a woman’s face is her husband’s business only. I want you to remember that. Do you understand?”
17. “Mariam had never before worn a burqa. Rasheed had to help her put it on. The padded headpiece felt tight and heavy on her skull, and it was strange seeing the world through a mesh screen. She practiced walking around her room in it and kept stepping on the hem and stumbling. The loss of peripheral vision was unnerving, and she did not like the suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth.”
18. “And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers. She no longer worried that people knew, with a single glance, all the shameful secrets of her past.”
19. “The women in this part of Kabul were a different breed from the women in the poorer neighborhoods – like the one where she and Rasheed lived, where so many of the women covered fully. These women were -what was the word Rasheed had used?-“modern.” Yes, modern Afghan women married to modern Afghan men who did not mind that their wives walked among strangers with makeup on their faces and nothing on their heads. Mariam watched them cantering uninhibited down the street, sometimes with a man, sometimes alone, sometimes with rosy-cheeked children who wore shiny shoes and watches with leather bands, who walked bicycles with high-rise handlebars and gold-colored spokes-unlike the children in Deh-Mazang, who bore sand-fly scars on their cheeks and rolled old bicycle tires with sticks.”
20. “These women were all swinging handbags and rustling skirts. Mariam even spotted one smoking behind the wheel of a car. Their nails were long, polished pink or orange, their lips red as tulips. They walked in high heels, and quickly, as if on perpetually urgent business. They wore dark sunglasses, and, when they breezed by, Mariam caught a whiff of their perfume.”
21. “They made her aware of her own lowliness, her plain looks, her lack of aspirations, her ignorance of so many things.”
22. “Rasheed had told Mariam that she was not to come down until the visitors had left.”
23.”What was it about a season’s first snowfall, Mariam wondered, that was so entrancing? Was it the chance to see something as yet unsoiled, untrodden? To catch the fleeting grace of a new season, a lovely beginning, before it was trampled and corrupted?
24. “Days later, when the communists began the summary executions of those connected with Daoud Khan’s regime, when rumors began floating about Kabul of eyes gouged and genitals electrocuted in the Pol-e-Charkhi Prison, Mariam would hear of the slaughter that had taken place at the Presidential Palace. Daoud Khan had been killed, but not before the communist rebels had killed some twenty members of his family, including women and grandchildren.”
24. “Democratic Republic of Afghanistan,[…] The era of aristocracy, nepotism, and inequality is over, fellow hamwaians. We have ended decades of tyranny. Power is now in the hands of the masses and freedom-loving people. A glorious new era in the history of our country is afoot. A new Afghanistan is born. We assure you that you have nothing to fear, fellow Afghans. The new regime will maintain the utmost respect for principles, both Islamic and democratic. This is a time of rejoicing and celebration.”
25. “His powerful hands clasped her jaw. He shoved two fingers into her mouth and pried it open, then forced the cold, hard pebbles into it. Mariam struggled against him, mumbling, but he kept pushing the pebbles in, his upper lip curled in a sneer.”
26. “So when the teacher called on her to name the capitals of Romania and Cuba, Laila was caught off guard.”
27. “Khala Rangmaal did not wear makeup or jewelry. She did not cover and forbade the female students from doing it. She said women and men were equal in every way and there was no reason women should cover if men didn’t.”
28. “And you must lend your own hand, children. You must report anyone who might know about these rebels. It’s your duty. You must listen, then report. Even if it’s your parents, your uncles or aunts. Because none of them loves you as much as your country does. Your country comes first, remember! I will be proud of you, and so will your country.”
29. “No one,no one, dared repeat in her presence the rising rumors that, after eight years of fighting, the Soviets were losing this war.”
30. “Marriage can wait, education cannot. You’re a very, very bright girl.”
31. “The government had sponsored literacy classes for all women. Almost two-thirds of the students at Kabul University were women now, Babi said, women who were studying law, medicine, engineering.”
32. “Women have always had it hard in this country, Laila, but they’re probably more free now, under the communists, and have more rights than they’ve ever had before.”
33. “Of course, women’s freedom – here, he shook his head ruefully-is also one of the reasons people out there took up arms in the first place.By “out there,” he didn’t mean Kabul, which had always been relatively liberal and progressive. Here in Kabul, women taught at the university, ran schools, held office in the government- No, Babi meant the tribal areas, especially the Pashtun regions in the south or in the east near the Pakistani border, where women were rarely seen on the streets and only then in burqa and accompanied by men. He meant those regions where men who lived by ancient tribal laws had rebelled against the communists and their decrees to liberate women, to abolish forced marriage, to raise the minimum marriage age to sixteen for girls. There, men saw it as an insult to their centuries-old tradition, Babi said, to be told by the government-and a godless one at that-that their daughters had to leave home, attend school, and work alongside men.”
34. “I want to see my sons’ dream come true. I want to see the day the Soviets go home disgraced, the day the Mujahideen come to Kabul in victory. I want to be there when it happens, when Afghanistan is free, so the boys see it too. They’ll see it through my eyes.”
35. “At the door, she made him promise to go without good-byes. She closed the door on him. Laila leaned her back against it, shaking against his pounding fists, one arm gripping her belly and a hand across her mouth, as he spoke through the door and promised that he would come back, that he would come back for her. She stood there until he tired, until he gave up, and then she listened to his uneven footsteps until they faded, until all was quiet, save for the gunfire cracking in the hills and her own heart thudding in her belly, her eyes, her bones.”
36. “Inside Laila too a battle was being waged: guilt on one side, partnered with shame, and, on the other, the conviction that what she and Tariq had done was not sinful; that it had been natural, good, beautiful, even inevitable, spurred by the knowledge that they might never see each other again.”
37. “There would come a day, in fact, years later, when Laila would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip from memory’s grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after her child by Tariq’s name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion-like the phantom pain of an amputee.”
38. “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her -walls.”
39. “The other night, when he… Nobody’s ever stood up for mebefore,” she said.”
40. “We’ll do it together. If I’m not mistaken, there’s some halwa left over. Awfully good with chat.”
41. “Aziza woke up crying and Rasheed yelled for Laila to come up and shut her up, a look passed between Laila and Mariam. An unguarded, knowing look. And in this fleeting, wordless exchange with Mariam, Laila knew that they were not enemies any longer.”
42. “But somehow, over these last months, Laila and Aziza-a harami like herself, as it turned out- had become extensions of her, and now, without them, the life Mariam had tolerated for so long suddenly seemed intolerable.
43. “Since the Mujahideen takeover in April 1992, Afghanistan’s name had been changed to the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The Supreme Court under Rabbani was filled now with hard-liner mullahs who did away with the communist-era decrees that empowered women and instead passed rulings based on Shari’a, strict Islamic laws that ordered women to cover, forbade their travel without a male relative, punished adultery with stoning. Even if the actual enforcement of these laws was sporadic at best.
44. “Pakistan had closed its borders to Afghans in January of that year.”
45. “They were a guerrilla force, he said, made up of young Pashtun men whose families had fled to Pakistan during the war against the Soviets.”
46. “At least the Taliban are pure and incorruptible. At least they’re decent Muslim boys. Wallah, when they come, they will clean up this place. They’ll bring peace and order. People won’t get shot anymore going out for milk. No more rockets! Think of it.”
47. Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:
All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.
All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.
All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white.
All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.
Singing is forbidden.
Dancing is forbidden.
Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kiteflying are forbidden.
Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.
If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.
If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.
If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned.
If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.
You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.
You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
Cosmetics are forbidden.
Jewelry is forbidden.
You will not wear charming clothes.
You will not speak unless spoken to.
You will not make eye contact with men.
You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.
Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.
Women are forbidden from working.
If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.”
48. “Men wielding pickaxes swarmed the dilapidated Kabul Museum and smashed pre-Islamic statues to rubble-that is, those that hadn’t already been looted by the Mujahideen. The university was shut down and its students sent home. Paintings were ripped from walls, shredded with blades. Television screens were kicked in. Books, except the Koran, were burned in heaps, the stores that sold them closed down. The poems of Khalili, Pajwak, Ansari, Haji Dehqan, Ashraqi, Beytaab, Hafez, Jami, Nizami, Rumi, Khayyam, Beydel, and more went up in smoke.”
49. “This hospital no longer treats women,” the guard barked.”
50. “A young woman pushed forward, said she had already been there. They had no clean water, she said, no oxygen, no medications, no electricity. “There is nothing there.”
51. “And so Laila’s life suddenly revolved around finding ways to see Aziza. Half the time, she never made it to the orphanage. […] If she was lucky, she was given a tongue-lashing or a single kick to the rear, a shove in the back. Other times, she met with assortments of wooden clubs, fresh tree branches, short whips, slaps, often fists.”
52. “Laila never would have believed that a human body could withstand this much beating, this viciously, this regularly, and keep functioning.”
53. “What harmful thing had she willfully done to this man to warrant his malice, his continual assaults, the relish with which he tormented her? Had she not looked after him when he was ill? Fed him, and his friends, cleaned up after him dutifully? Had she not given this man her youth? Had she ever justly deserved his meanness?”
54. “He’d taken so much from her in twenty-seven years of marriage. She would not watch him take Laila too.”
55. “She turned it so the sharp edge was vertical, and, as she did, it occurred to her that this was the first time that she was deciding the course of her own life.”
56. “Mariam’s trial had taken place the week before. There was no legal council, no public hearing, no cross-examining of evidence, no appeals. Mariam declined her right to witnesses. The entire thing lasted less than fifteen minutes.”
57. “Soon all the TV stations are talking about Afghanistan and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.”
58. “She hears of schools built in Kabul, roads repaved, women returning to work, and her life here, pleasant as it is, grateful as she is for it, seems… insufficient to her.”
59. “Are they being foolish, she wonders, leaving behind the safety of Murree? Going back to the land where her parents and brothers perished, where the smoke of bombs is only now settling? And then, from the darkened spirals of her memory, rise two lines of poetry, Babi’s farewell ode to Kabul: One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”