By: Adam Siddiq
Publisher: Lineage Publishing
Publication Date: December 2017
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
In the latter part of the 19th century, Commander-In-Chief Ghulam Haidar Khan Charki became a national hero with his successful efforts to peacefully unite all of Afghanistan. His four sons also became critical government figures, and together with the soon-to-be King, Prince Amanullah, they worked diligently on the arduous task of modernizing the outdated country of Afghanistan. These changes included such things as building relationships with Europe, abolishing slavery, and creating freedom and equality for women. Unfortunately, not everyone believed that King Amanullah’s plans were in the best interest of the country, and while he was overseas in 1929, a coup was developed and successfully forged against him. This led to thousands of people, many loyal to the original King, including the Charki family, to become political prisoners.
Author Adam Siddiq, Khaled Siddiq’s grandson composes a beautifully intense (often leaving this reader teary eyed) and inspiring true account of Khaled’s life that includes many touching family photos, and a solid account of Afghanistan’s turbulent history. The journey begins in 1932, when Khaled is a mere boy of six. His father, Ghulam Siddiq Khan Charki (son of Ghulam Haidar Khan Charki) is exiled, some of his uncles are executed, and his family is imprisoned in Kabul. Forced to barely survive in wretched conditions, Khaled and his family suffer from (and some succumb to) various preventable illnesses. However, instead of languishing in their misery and giving up hope for freedom, Khaled’s family, with the help of his aunt, decide to make the best of their situations by educating the young children. Over the decades of his imprisonment, Khaled was able to learn to speak fluently in several languages, and most importantly he was able to develop the patience, optimism, kindness and fortitude that would serve him immensely throughout the decades of his imprisonment, home confinement, and further struggles with the new Afghanistan government.
A few decades ago, I was a student nearing the end of my studies where our teacher was discussing the critical importance and utmost value of education. The teacher made a profound statement that really left a mark in my memories - he said, “They may take your cars and your possessions. They may foreclose on your home. The world may even do the unthinkable by taking away your family and loved ones, but what no one will ever be able to take away from you is your education. Once you have it, it is yours forever. No one can take that away from you.”
I thought about it, and eventually forgot about what was said that day. Fortunately, over the years, I never had to personally experience repeated and devastating loss, so my teacher’s profundity never truly struck home with me until many years later when I was deep into reading this memoir. Khaled Siddiq experienced substantial loss of his family, his family home and their possessions (and their trusted positions in the government) and most importantly his own freedom at the tender age of six. Yet through all this repeated devastation, he quickly learned the extreme value of education and was ultimately able to withstand years of abuse to, in essence, conquer an entire nation that was against him and his family, and win his complete freedom.
Quill says: Shackled: A Journey From Political Imprisonment to Freedom, is a powerful true story of one man’s life in Afghanistan filled with raw emotion that is an inspiring must-read for all humankind.