Study Guide

A Thousand Splendid Suns Power

By Khaled Hosseini

Power

Part 3
Rasheed

"You try this again and I will find you. […] And, when I do, there isn't a court in this godforsaken country that will hold me accountable for what I will do." (3.36.147)

Rasheed holds a frightening amount of power over Laila. This wouldn't be possible, however, if the government at large didn't support his right to do so. Laila is unable to escape because there simply isn't anyplace to go.

"No matter. The point is, I am your husband now, and it falls on me to guard not only your honor but ours, yes, our nang and namoos. That is the husband's burden. You let me worry about that." (3.31.11)

This is a classic psychological power move from Rasheed. First, he ties Laila's honor with his. Then, he claims that it is his responsibility to guard their honor. In a few words, he's effectively taken ownership over Laila as a person.

Rasheed didn't say anything. And, really, what could be said, what needed saying when you'd shoved the barrel of your gun into your wife's mouth? (3.40.56)

When push comes to shove, power is simply about violence. Rasheed tries every trick in the book to break Laila's spirit, but each times, he fails. In this book, violence is always used to oppress the defenseless.

"Well, one does not drive a Volga and a Benz in the same manner. That would be foolish, wouldn't it?" (3.31.12)

This sounds like a bad pick-up line, but it's really just straight up manipulative. By insulting Mariam and praising Laila, he's pitting the two against each other. That leaves them in conflict, while he takes control of both of them without resistance.

"God has made us differently, you women and us men. Our brains are different. […] This is why we require only one male witness but two female ones." (3.47.21)

Think about this regulation: it's saying that women are half-people. As we've seen throughout history, the powerful dehumanize their victims in order to break their morale. The Taliban is no different.

"They want us to operate in burqa," the doctor explained, motioning with her head to the nurse at the door. "She keeps watch. She sees them coming; I cover." (3.39.77)

Here we see the jaded response of a woman who has been abused by power her entire life. Her resoluteness in the face of oppression is at once an inspiration, as well as a condemnation of the Taliban's ridiculous regulations.

Marco Polo Restaurant, near Chicken Street, had been turned into an interrogation center. Sometimes screaming was heard from behind its black-painted windows. (3.38.3)

The image of a restaurant being used as an interrogation chamber might make you chuckle at first, but the reality is far more frightening. The citizens of Kabul must live in fear of being randomly grabbed for a minor infraction and then being brutally tortured.

"It's a matter of qanoon, hamshira, a matter of law," Rahman said, injecting his voice with a grave, self-important tone. "It is my responsibility, you see, to maintain order." (3.36.99)

Sometimes power isn't flashy. The police officer, Rahman, probably thinks he is doing the right thing by upholding the law. But in reality, he's simply using his position of power to give himself a little ego boost.

Mariam had heard about the announcement, in January of that year, that men and women would be seen in different hospitals, that all female staff would be discharged from Kabul's hospitals and sent to work in one central facility. (3.39.7)

This absurd rule embodies the Taliban's abuse of power. The Taliban are so obsessed with wielding their authority over women that they relegate all of their female citizens to an understaffed and under-resourced facility. It's practically a death sentence.

It was the raids. […] Sometimes monthly raids, sometimes weekly. Of late, almost daily. Mostly, the Taliban confiscated stuff, gave a kick to someone's rear, whacked the back of a head or two. But sometimes there were public beatings, lashings of soles and palms. (3.40.57)

Power is often achieved through public shaming. The Taliban use their ban on media to make people fear their power. Better yet, by making people afraid of them, they gain even greater control.