Dan Curnutt's Reviews > The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
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Mar 03, 11

Read in January, 2011

Even though the year is early this book is going to be at the top of my list for the best of 2011. Gayle Lemmon tells the compelling true life story of a family that was living in Kabul during the time that the Taliban came in and took control of the city and the government. Overnight the family, even though they are faithful Muslims, are thrown into disarray. No longer are the daughters allowed to go to school, nor teach in the public school, nor hold jobs outside of the home.

Also if they do not wear the traditional Taliban Chadri covering (the one that only allows a small mesh slit for the eyes) they will be beat if found out in public. They are also subject to being beat if they are out without a male escort. Further they can be beaten if they are seen talking with men in the marketplace.

Needless to say this puts a real hardship of lifestyle for women in the capital of Kabul. What Lemmon gives us is a solid look at how the Taliban's tenacious religious convictions (in the West we would call it Legalism) cause great hardship for the faithful Muslims who do not hold to the harsh legalistic rules that the Taliban puts in place. This is what is disturbing. You see the harshness that women and some men are treated with just because they don't abide by a long list of legalistic rules. This is human rights violation in the harshest sense.

I think that Lemmon gives us a great book to help us understand that the average Muslim is a faithful religious person who is hardworking and loves their culture and their family. But when put under the control of the Taliban they are living what can best be described as under house arrest.

One positive that the Taliban brought to the city was that crime became non-existent. This is due to their quick and harsh treatment of criminals and the public display / example they make of them. Almost over night all crime stopped.

Now to the inspiring story of a Muslim family with many daughters who find a way to support their family as well as provide a service to the community and provide inspiration to others in the community. Lemmon has changed the names to protect this family. But the Sediqi sisters start a sewing business. Kamela has this idea and gets all of her sisters involved. They can work at home and do sewing and then sell their dresses and pants suits to the local merchants who need merchandise.

Kamela along with her young brother go to the merchants and start taking orders for dresses. At first it is just the sisters doing the work, at home, in private. But as the orders grow Kamela comes up with another idea. They can start a school to teach other young women how to sew and in the process also provide them jobs helping them fill their orders.

The book is filled with inspiring stories of how the young women overcome all odds that the Taliban places in their way to make a profit and provide a decent living for their family and for the community as well.

Not only is Kamela a good business woman but she is so faithful to follow rules that even the local Taliban men in her district who find out about her school and business do not bother her or the sisters. They allow them to continue as long as they are respectful and stay within their home.

This story reads as a novel, but what makes it great is knowing that it is true.

It will cause you to stop and think about what happens when a repressive religious group takes control of a country. It makes you stop and think, what should I do to help those who are persecuted by such a group. How can I be supportive.

I loved this book and thought that Ms. Lemmon did a wonderful job.

Thank you Gayle for bringing this issue to our attention.

Enjoy reading!
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