Harriet’s parents hoped that, after leaving boarding school and doing ‘the Season’, she would meet and marry a suitable young man. But she was to disappoint them. Just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, she set off for Peshawar to see for herself the plight of thousands of displaced Afghan refugees. Determined to do something about their dire situation, Harriet set up a small silk weaving project for illiterate Turkmen refugees, and was sent by UNESCO to Mazar-i-sharif to work with Afghanistan’s last remaining silk ikat weavers. During those years she was arrested by the K H A D, narrowly missed being blown up, survived acute bacterial meningitis in a Kabul hospital, and rescued an abandoned pi-dog puppy who became her devoted companion.
At the end of the first Gulf War she travelled with the Peshmerga in the newly-liberated Iraqi Kurdistan. Then in 1994 she joined a group of unemployed builders and decorators driving convoys of food and aid from Croydon to the Muslim enclaves in Bosnia Herzegovina. Much has been written about conflicts in these countries, by war correspondents, diplomats and military personnel, but this is a different story. It is about young woman from a sheltered and privileged background travelling and working alone, in and around war zones, frequently with no financial or practical support, at a time of increasing Islamic fundamentalism.