Because women were not allowed to be educated under the strict interpretation of Islamic law introduced by the Taliban, women writers belonging to the Herat Literary Circle set up a group called the Sewing Circles of Herat, which founded the Golden Needle Sewing School in or around 1996.
Women would visit the school three times a week, ostensibly to sew, but would instead hear lectures given by professors of literature from Herat University. Children playing outside would alert the group if the religious police approached, giving them time to hide their books and pick up sewing equipment.
Christina Lamb, author of The Sewing Circles of Herat, told Radio Free Europe:
They would arrive in their burqas with their bags full of material and scissors. Underneath they would have notebooks and pens. And once they got inside, instead of learning to sew, they would actually be talking about Shakespeare and James Joyce, Dostoyevsky and their own writing. It was a tremendous risk they were taking. If they had been caught, they would have been, at the very least, imprisoned and tortured. Maybe hanged.
Herat may have been the most oppressed area under the Taliban, according to Lamb, because it was a cultured city and mostly Sh'ia, both of which the Taliban opposed.