Walking the Precipice
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A longtime peace and human rights activist, BARBARA BICK worked for Women Strike for Peace, NEGAR-Support for Women of Afghanistan, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Institute of Women's Policy Research, and the National Conference of State and Local Public Policies. She is the author of Culture and Politics and Walking the Precipice.

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Walking the Precipice

Witness to the Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan
Barbara Bick

This is not Charlie Wilson's War. In richly detailed anecdotes, Walking the Precipice describes through a woman’s eyes the rise of the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan. Bick provides a personal report about the country at the heart of the "War on Terror."

In 1990, sixty-five-year-old activist and grandmother Barbara Bick traveled with a women’s delegation to Afghanistan for what she thought would be her last great adventure. Instead, while Mujahideen shelled Kabul, Bick forged deep friendships with her Afghan hosts. In the ensuing years, she watched with horror as the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan and instituted fiercely anti-woman policies.

Eleven years later, at age 76, Bick returned to Afghanistan, this time to an even more dangerous terrain than Kabul: she traveled to the region controlled by the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban militia. She found herself in early September 2001 at a compound where Ahmad Shah Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance, was also staying. Bick walked out of the compound on September 9; minutes later Taliban infiltrators assassinated Massoud, a prelude to the al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

In the years that followed, the U.S. government became deeply involved in Afghanistan, and Bick decided to go back one more time, to see how women were faring under the new government. In 2004, when she returned, she was one of the few Western women able to bring years of experience to understanding the country’s trauma. Walking the Precipice gives new insight into the people, politics, and culture of a country that is on everyone’s radar—for its beauty, and for its tragic place history.

"Enthralling . . . One of her most compelling and emotional episodes . . . By the end of this short but dense narrative, readers will have a far greater understanding of the region [Afghanistan] and the stakes under which its people labor"

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Walking the Precipice is a deeply personal account told with honesty, humor, and insight. The author never claims more for herself than is appropriate, nor does she apologize for her emotional responses to what she sees. . . . she brings to bear acute powers of observation, a deep concern for an oppressed group of women, and her own impressive background as an organizer in a significant moment in history. To read Walking the Precipice is to be moved and educated."

The Martha's Vineyard Times