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The Miniskirts of Kabul

In 1994, Mohammed Najibullah, the last communist president of Afghanistan, was living in internal exile in the United Nations compound in Kabul. He had been there for four years since his overthrow from office when the Mujaheddin finally gained power after a long war with the soviets. During his time in the compound Najibullah taught himself English and tried to maintain political contacts in case he ever had a chance to return to power. But the mujaheddin were a chaotic government and eventually a Taliban rebellion began to take the whole country. By 1994 they were at the gates of Kabul.

The play begins when Najibullah, lifting weights, is interrupted by a young woman from England.

Are you from the UN?






I’m British.


Are you a diplomat?




Normally I’m given details of any visits.


I didn’t go through the official channels.


What channels did you go though?


This is not a normal visit.


I don’t understand.


I’m imagining you.

I was asked to write about Najibullah by Nick Kent who was putting together his Afghan History Epic ‘The Great Game’. Nick is very persuasive and his ideas are always so bold and clear. He wanted to tell the recent history of a country with which we were at war and about which most British people knew almost nothing. He called twelve writers and gave each of them a time period about which to write. I got Najibullah. I remembered reading somewhere that under the communists there were ‘miniskirts on the streets of Kabul.’ It seemed such an alien thought. I began to research the story. In my research I found this picture of a demonstration for women’s rights on the campus of Kabul University in 1973. It was the only concrete  evidence  I had found for miniskirts. Knowing the history of the ensuing three decades I find the innocence and hope and bravery of the women in this picture is almost overwhelming.


Title: The Miniskirts of Kabul
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