On the (book)shelf

Titles available at Books n Beans (Lahore) or through www.vanguardbooks.com

On the (book)shelf

The Private World of Ottoman Women

Godfrey Goodwin
Saqi [paperback], 2007
PRs 2,760

Reconstructing the role of women in Ottoman high society and power politics, Godfrey Goodwin brings to life the women who made their mark in a male domain. He examines the laws that governed women’s lives from the harem to the humblest tasks, and contrasts the lives of rural women with those of women in the towns, discussing pivotal events such as birth, courtship, marriage, divorce and motherhood, but also aspects of costume, cookery and travel (often over surprising distances). This perceptive study culminates in the nineteenth century, exploring the advent of modernity and its impact at a time of imperial decline.

Forming the highest strata of society were the princesses and the great women who achieved political power – and the author brings to life the great strength of character many of them showed. Much more is recorded about life in the palace than in humble homes, but even here much can be deduced. In the provinces, ordinary women endured 600 years of hardship and trouble, raised their children, mourned their dead and, in doing so, developed the courageous personalities that dominate this account.

The Arabs at War in Afghanistan

Mustafa Hamid and Leah Farrall
Hurst [hardback], 2015
PRs 3,780

A former senior mujahidin figure and an ex-counter-terrorism analyst cooperating to write a book on the history and legacy of Arab-Afghan fighters in Afghanistan is a remarkable and improbable undertaking. Yet this is what Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu Walid al-Masri, and Leah Farrall have achieved with the publication of their groundbreaking work.

Hamid was among the first Arabs to join the jihad against the Soviets and rose to become an influential figure, counting leading Afghan commanders and, later, senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures among his friends. He was an eyewitness to and a participant in events that shaped not only Afghanistan’s history, but also the destiny of the Arab volunteers who joined in its liberation. Farrall was a senior counterterrorism analyst with the Australian Federal Police before turning to academia.

The result of thousands of hours of discussions over several years, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan offers significant new insights into the history of many of today’s militant Salafi groups and movements. By revealing the real origins of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the jostling among the various jihadi groups, this account not only challenges conventional wisdom, but also raises uncomfortable questions as to how events from this important period have been so badly misconstrued.

What people are saying: “An extraordinary, fascinating document. This combination of investigation, testimony and analysis will be essential reading for any one interested in the truth about the foreign involvement in the war against the Soviets and the early history of al-Qaeda” (Jason Burke, The Guardian).