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The only Afghan women that we see much of in the novel are Amir's wife and mother-in-law, Soraya and Khanum Taheri. To a great degree, Khanum Taheri is a traditional Afghan wife. She is modest and subservient to her husband. She gave up singing as a career, in spite of showing great promise. However, it would appear that being in America has changed her a bit because she actively encourages the relationship between Amir and Soraya, in the face of the General's disapproval. Soraya seems to have more options than she might have had in Afghanistan, where she is unlikely to have chosen her own husband or to have chosen her own career. She makes reference to what her parents wish her to be, either a lawyer or a doctor. But she wishes to become a teacher and does so. It is not even clear that she would have been able to choose to have a career in Afghanistan. She probably would have been expected to marry someone of her father's choosing and spend her time being a full-time wife.
It is not clear to what degree the Taliban taking power affected the lives of women, who clearly were repressed and had fewer rights than men even before the Taliban came. However, it is fairly certain that, in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, neither woman would have been able to appear in public without being fully hidden by their clothing and that Soraya would not have been able to receive any education at all. We know that the Taliban have destroyed girls' schools just from reading the newspapers. So it is probably a fair statement to say that these women's lives were better in American than they had been in Afghanistan at any period, but significantly better than they would have been under the Taliban.
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