Kabul in Winter Life Without Peace in Afghanistan

Ann Jones




Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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Soon after the bombing of Kabul ceased, award-winning journalist and women's rights activist Ann Jones set out for the shattered city, determined to bring help where her country had brought destruction. Here is her trenchant report from inside a city struggling to rise from the ruins. Working among the multitude of impoverished war widows, retraining Kabul's long-silenced English teachers, and investigating the city's prison for women, Jones enters a large community of female outcasts: runaway child brides, pariah prostitutes, cast-off wives, victims of rape. In the streets and markets, she hears the Afghan view of the supposed benefits brought by the fall of the Taliban, and learns that regarding women as less than human is the norm, not the aberration of one conspicuously repressive regime.

Jones confronts the ways in which Afghan education, culture, and politics have repeatedly been hijacked—by Communists, Islamic fundamentalists, and the Western free marketeers—always with disastrous results. And she reveals, through small events, the big disjunctions: between U.S promises and performance, between the new "democracy" and the still-entrenched warlords, between what's boasted of and what is.

Kabul in Winter brings alive the people and day-to-day life of a place whose future depends so much upon our own.


Praise for Kabul in Winter

"A work of impassioned reportage, a sympathetic observer's damage assessment of a country torn apart by warlords, religious fanatics, and ill-advised superpower conflicts dating back more than a century . . . Eloquent and persuasive."—The New York Times

"Often I felt a desire to thank Jones for shining a flashlight on a corner of human experience still so shrouded in shadow."—The Christian Science Monitor

"We meet many remarkable people in this angry, eloquent book, but none more remarkable than Jones herself."—Harper's Magazine

"[A] potent and disturbing new book . . . Jones examines the dire situation of women in postwar Afghanistan. Jones, who spent much time in Kabul's women's prisons and schools, witnessed firsthand the effects of stunning physical and psychological abuse; the result is a book which stirred in me such uncomfortable emotions that I read it with an ever-tightening knot in my stomach and a hand flying regularly upward to cover my horrified mouth . . . Jones quotes a phrase that battered women's shelters used in the seventies as a kind of rallying cry: 'World peace begins at home.' That phrase now strikes me as urgently true."—Rosemary Mahoney, O, The Oprah Magazine

"Jones's book gathers power as it goes on . . . and some of her descriptions approach poetry."—The Washington Post

"Jones is an authority on women and violence . . . She applies her Western lens to the lives of women in Afghanistan, exposing all the contexts in which harm comes to them, including domestic disputes, war crimes and self-inflicted honor wounds. Ninety-five percent of Afghan women are reportedly victims of violence . . . The degree of the abuse and the motivations behind it are almost beyond Western imagination."—April Dembosky, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"Chilling . . . Jones's impressions are vividly rendered. . . . This achingly candid commentary brings the country's sobering truths to light."—Booklist

"Afghanistan is fading as a current-events topic, but this report on the postwar situation is a creditable contribution. Drawing on her experiences as a humanitarian aid worker in that country, Jones focuses on the problems that the U.S. government claims to have solved: political anarchy, destruction of infrastructure, and equal justice. The three sections of her narrative are set, respectively, 'In the Streets,' 'In the Prison,' and 'In the Schools.' Part 1 sets the context for the book through encounters with various local fighters, the press, and Afghan men bitter over broken American promises. The prison section is the most painful to read, as Jones documents the impossible situation of women imprisoned for the crime of having been abused in various ways by men (e.g., a woman forced into prostitution by her husband was charged with adultery). Jones is particularly biting in her criticism of nonprofit agencies that don't stay for the long haul (though she doesn't account for the small number who have stayed and had some success) . . . Recommended."—Lisa Klopfer, Library Journal

"In February 2003, Jones and her fellow NGO relief workers watched with disbelief and horror as Fox News declared the American war in Afghanistan a success—the Taliban totally defeated, all Afghan women 'liberated' and the infrastructure completely restored. The reality they knew on the ground in Kabul was starkly different. Jones presents her version of the events in this fascinating volume, which tours Kabul's streets, private homes, schools and women's prison. The political and military history of Afghanistan, as well as its cultural and religious traditions, inform Jones's daily interactions and observations. Describing an English class she taught, for example, Jones says, 'Once, after I explained what blind date meant, a woman said, "Like my wedding.' Jones focuses particularly on Afghan women, whose lives are often permeated by violence. Her sharp eye and quick wit enable vivid writing."—Publishers Weekly

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I went to Afghanistan after the bombing stopped. Somehow I felt obliged to try to help pick up the pieces. I was a New Yorker who had always lived downtown, and for a long time after...

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  • Ann Jones

  • Ann Jones is the author of Women Who Kill, Next Time She'll Be Dead, and Looking for Lovedu. An authority on women and violence, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Nation.

  • Ann Jones Irene Young