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If the Taliban are capable of hunting down an ex-president even in the UN headquarters in Kabul, then terror and chaos have taken over indeed. I've seen some of them flogging people with big whips!

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They're scary, they dress like Pakistanis in long, loose pants, they drive around in four-by-fours and stop to beat people for no reason Sometimes they attack men who don't wear beards. And you have no beard! Do you grow a beard at age sixteen when you wear running shoes and jeans?

When you listen to rock music and daydream over sentimental Indian novels, like lots of boys his age?

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Their edict specifies that men must wear beards as long as a man's hand. They never wear the pakol , the traditional Afghan cap that has become an emblem of the resistance. Besides, we know they're not all Pashtuns, or even Afghans: They're supported by Pakistan, and they recruit followers abroad. Footage on television and eyewitnesses from the provinces they control prove that their ranks include many Pakistanis, as well as Arabs from Muslim countries, most of whom don't even speak our language. The neighborhood is rather quiet; the Taliban flag still waves atop the mosque.

But our minds are reeling. We look at one another, dumbfounded. Farad gulps down a glass of hot tea. Papa comes in from the balcony, shaking his head: He simply cannot believe the Taliban have hanged Najibullah.

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This morning, my father is silently wondering about a thousand things he keeps to himself so as not to distress our mother any further. She has already been sorely tried by seventeen years of war. But even under the Soviets, even under the rocket fire of the feuding military factions, even in the ruins, we were still living in relative freedom in Kabul. What will happen to his children? I was lucky to be born into a united and affectionate family, one both liberal and religious. My oldest brother, Wahid, lives in Russia.

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My oldest sister, Shakila, is married and lives with her in-laws, following the custom of our people. She's in Pakistan, waiting to join her husband in the United States. Soraya, who is twenty, is unmarried and has been a flight attendant for Aryana Afghan Airlines for three years now. She came home two days ago from a routine trip to Dubai and was to have left again this morning. Daoud is studying economics. I just passed the first part of a university entrance examination to study journalism.

That has always been my dream. My father and everyone else in my family hope to see me complete my studies and become a reporter, traveling around the country, earning my living. Will all this come to an end in a single moment? We want to convince ourselves that the Taliban are really here, that they've really hanged Najibullah and his brother, that the catastrophe I refused to believe in only yesterday has actually happened to us.

Now we realize that he was right. So to convince myself of this new reality, I want to see these Taliban soldiers with my own eyes. Daoud will stay with Mama, who is too fragile to see such things, and the rest of us will drive to Aryana Square.

Before taking off on his bike, a sturdy Chinese model, Farad warns my father once again:. It would be safer.

My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Ta...

If I were already a reporter, it would be my duty to go to the square. I've never seen Najibullah, except for a few times on television, and I was so young then. People had been saying lately that he was writing an autobiography, which I was eager to read. Even those who betrayed our country, who supported the Soviets, are part of our recent history.

Anyone who wants to be a journalist must learn everything, understand everything, know everything. She was a nurse gynecologist who is ill throughout the whole book. Father is the name Latifa refers to as her dad. He is a very strong man who protects his family.

Farida is one of Latifa's friends and Saber's sister. Ghazi is a prison killer General Massoud is the leader of the Northern Alliance and he flees north during the Taliban siege of Kabul and is killed two days before September 11, Mullah Omar is the leader of the Taliban.

Hamid Karzai is the current leader of Afghanistan. Hekmatyar is the former kind of Afghanistan and he ld the bloody campaign in Kabul. Then in September , Taliban soldiers seized power in Kabul.

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From that moment, Latifa, just 16 years old became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed.

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Her mother was banned from working. The simplest and most basic freedoms - walking down the street, looking out a window - were no longer hers. She was now forced to wear a chadri. My Forbidden Face provides a poignant and highly personal account of life under the Taliban regime. With painful honesty and clarity Latifa describes the way she watched her world falling apart, in the name of a fanatical interpretation of a faith that she could not comprehend. Her voice captures a lost innocence, but also echoes her determination to live in freedom and hope.

Earlier this year, Latifa and her parents escaped Afghanistan with the help of a French-based Afghan resistance group.

Her descriptions of watching videos in secret, listening to the radio in terror lest she be caught and hovering on the edge of a black hole of depression during what should have been the liveliest years of her life give a very human face to the known facts of how the most repressive government on the planet operated. A salutary read for any Western woman, and one that makes you appreciate the freedoms we often take for granted.