This is a short story about Kushtia, the fictional country found in many of my stories. High on the fringes of the Hindu Kush, a small country is moving out of the shadow of its colonial past as part of the Soviet empire. Although trying to become a modern, secular state, Kushtia is still troubled by its immediate and distant past.
Now a democratic republic, Kushtia is trying to balance the future with the past by re-building itself with a governing party and presidency dominated by the heads of the country's main tribes. Kushtia's culture is founded on the importance of the household and the primacy of the head of the household. Women always had a subservient role in the Kushtian household and during Soviet times their oppression became state sponsored with women viewed as units of family construction and the harems of Kushtia's past being replaced by woman camps. With the end of the Soviet era the camps were transformed once more into the harems of the ruling families but the brutality and secrecy of communism was carried into them with some households treating their women as little better than slaves and others treating them worse than this.
With women controlled by the heads of household, veiling is commonplace. Women are unable to hold assets or engage in contracts. In recent times the international community has suspected Kushtia's leading families of taking their ideas beyond their borders. Disappearances of young women from territories bordering on Kushtia have led to accusations of the state conniving in abduction and slavery and there have even been suggestions that Kushtia has been the destination of the victims of western white slaving.
Kushtia first appeared in the Freddie Clegg story, Market Forces.