In 1997 Sally Armstrong, then editor-in-chief of
Homemaker's magazine, wrote an article about the women of
Afghanistan and their lives under the misogynist Taliban regime.
More than 9000 letters poured in from readers demanding that
something be done to get these women out of bondage. Since then,
Armstrong has stayed in touch with the women she met while
researching the article, as well as the ones she met on subsequent
visits to that troubled, complex country. Recently named as
UNICEF's Special Representative to Afghanistan, Armstrong has an
insider's view of the terror, abuse and misogyny the women and
children in Afghanistan have faced for more than two decades of
civil war and, in particular, since the Taliban took over.
Veiled Threat begins on September 27, 1996, the day the
Taliban seized power and put women under house arrest. Armstrong
introduces us to the women - a radio announcer, a psychiatrist, a
pharmacist, a civil engineer and the new deputy prime minister of
Afghanistan, Dr. Sima Samar - who describe their rapid-fire descent
into the waking nightmare of life under the Taliban. Dr. Samar's
story and the personal revelations of other Afghan women are woven
throughout the narrative of Veiled Threat. They vividly
illustrate the harsh realities of the lives of women and girls, as
well as the cloak-and-dagger covert action the women were taking to
subvert the hateful edicts of the Taliban.
Armstrong then steps back to describe the centuries-old history
of misogyny and the way customs such as honour killing found their
way to Afghanistan. She also highlights the extraordinary work
women around the world were doing to rescue their sisters in
Afghanistan while venerable bodies such as the United Nations were
She leads us through the fractured history of Afghanistan, a
country where tribes have warred with each other endlessly and
where women's human rights have ebbed and flowed with the whims of
the victors. She examines what Islam actually says about women and
accuses the Taliban and other fundamentalist leaders of distorting
Islam for political opportunism. She assesses the monumental impact
of September 11 and ends her book with intriguing conclusions drawn
by Afghan women.
Based on first-hand experience that includes Armstrong's own
unexpected stay with the Taliban and years of passionate
involvement in the struggle for women's human rights in
Afghanistan, Veiled Threat brings a humane and informed
view to the lives of women in this tragic and awesome land.