Sitting in a bare mud-walled room in an Afghan refugee camp, I listened as a window opened upon a nightmare world. ‘I saw a girl wearing white shoes,’ a woman told me. ‘The Taliban came and said to her: ‘White is the colour of our ﬂag. You have dishonoured our ﬂag. So they beat her.’
In another camp, a boy of about ten years old told me how the Taliban hunted him with dogs. His transgression? A haircut they considered decadently western. Another little girl hid in a bread oven and watched the Taliban kill her father for his wristwatch and waistcoat.
In Pakistan’s squalid and sprawling Afghan refugee camps, I got my ﬁrst hint of the wider consequences of restricting individual freedoms. The woman who told me about the white shoes had been a schoolteacher. She left the country when the Taliban no longer permitted her to teach. The camps are packed with people like her – teachers, doctors and engineers.