AFGHAN GIRL by Matthew Friedman


Afghan Girl   (Romance/Adventure Novel)

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This romance/adventure novel explores forbidden love — what it is like for two young people to fall in love in a place that forbids such unions. For most of us, falling in love is a based on own free will. For those in other parts of the world, such love is forbidden by strong cultural and religious traditions. Set in the era when Afghanistan was still at war with the USSR (1979), the novel explores the questions:

What would happen if a traditional Afghan girl – someone who understood, internalized, and accepted her culture’s strict social norms and values – were to be given a taste of true freedom following a terrible earthquake that erased her memory? What if, for a time, she was able to experience love, life and liberty — unconstrained, unencumbered — the way a western woman might? And what if she was then forced to make a choice between these two extremes after regaining her memory – either accepting a woman’s expected role in society or seeking to maintain that sense of self-determination and free will once again? What would she do?

Afghan Girl explores these questions through the eyes of Nadia, a fifteen-year-old girl from rural Afghanistan who is faced with this reality.


“Tell me about this boy you mentioned. Did you say his name was Ali? Is he from here too?”

“Yes, Ali. He is the one who rescued me from my uncle. But no, he is not from here.”

“Who is he?”

“He was someone living in the house behind my uncle’s. We became good friends.   We used to talk to each other through a tiny hole in the wall that separated our rooms. This morning, after my uncle started beating me again, Ali broke down a portion of the wall to rescue me.”

“Is he a cousin of yours?” asked Sonia, surprised by this confession.

“No, he is not a relative. In fact, I met him this morning in person for the first time. We had known each other from our conversations but I had never actually seen him before today.”

“Are you telling me that some strange boy took you out of your uncle’s home? And you were traveling with him? How old is this boy?”

“He is about eighteen.”

“Where is he now?”

“He is in the next town. He will join us tomorrow. He couldn’t come with us tonight. But he will come soon enough.” She spoke with confidence, hoping that her words would prove to be true.

“Nadia, what are you telling me? Don’t you know you can’t be with someone like this? It is not right.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Girls and boys who do not know each other can’t go off together. It goes against our religion. It is wrong. How can you not know this?”

“What is wrong with it?” asked Nadia, ready to defend herself and Ali once again. She refused to accept these words as a reflection of her own truth. “He was helping me. He came to my rescue. I feel good when I am with him. What can be wrong with that?”

“Nadia, please listen to me. I don’t know what happened to you, but you seem to be in some serious trouble. Look at the way you are dressed. And you ran away from your uncle’s house? He is family. He is your guardian. You just can’t leave him. It is just not right. There are rules and we must abide by them. That is the way things are.”

“What choice did I have? He was beating me. Just look at my face.”

“But why was he beating you?”

“I don’t know. Whenever I didn’t do what he asked, he’d hit me.”

“So why didn’t you do what he asked then? My brother forces me to do things that I don’t like. But I do them because I have no choice. We are women in this world. We do as we are told. It is the way things are. It is our place. Why can’t you understand this? It is like questioning why the moon appears in the night sky. It just does.”

“Because it is wrong! Why does my opinion not count? Why are my views and my feelings any less important than his? If I am told to do something that I think is wrong, I will not do it. Surely when God made women he did not expect them to be brainless creatures, bowing to the will of even the most evil or stupid man.”

“What difference should that make? My brother is often wrong. But I do what he says anyway. Like I said, that is what is expected of us. You can’t fight with men – they will always win. They are stronger than us. They are smarter than us. We can’t win against them.”

“Well I don’t care what you say about this. I disagree. I don’t understand why I can’t have an opinion on things. Why can’t I say what I want to say? Why do men always have to be right?   My uncle was seldom right. He is a stupid, stubborn man. I hate him. Why should I allow someone like that to control my life?”

“I don’t know how to answer this. I wouldn’t know where to begin. All I know is that you can’t be like this anymore, Nadia. And you can’t be traveling around with strange boys who are not your family. It is not right.”

“Are you talking about Ali or Shawn?”

“Shawn is just a child. There is no problem with him. But this Ali boy you mentioned is eighteen. He is a man. I don’t know where he is now, but you mustn’t see him again.”

“We are friends,” Nadia responded back defiantly. “He is just helping me.”

“Nadia. You are not married. He is not married. Terrible things can happen when unmarried boys and girls come together. He can do…. He can do things to you that are wrong. You don’t know about these things. But…”

“What things?” asked Nadia, not allowing her to finish her statement.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” replied Sonia turning away, embarrassed.


About the Author

 Matthew S. Friedman, as an international human rights expert, has traveled to over 75 countries around the world. For the past 25 years, he has been living and working in South and Southeast Asia. During this time working for USAID and the United Nations, Friedman has spent years learning about the unique and diverse people from this part of the world. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer for The Mekong Club, an organization of Hong Kong-based private sector business people who have joined forces to fight human trafficking in Asia, which he also co-founded. Friedman is also a technical advisor to numerous governments working to stop slavery. He is frequently cited in the news media on issues related to gender violence, gender equality, human trafficking and slavery in Southeast Asia (CNN, TVB, BBC, NYT, IHT, etc) and invited to speak at major conferences around the world. He is the author of four other novels, including: Paths Less Traveled, Pilgrims Publishing House, Varanasi, India, April 2009; In the Shadow of the Tamarind Tree, Vijitha Yapa Publishing House, Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 2005; The Gorkha Urn, University Editions Inc., Huntington, West Virginia, March 1997; and Tara: A Fleshtrade Odyssey, Vikas Publishing, New Delhi, India, March 1997.


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