For all the women and the men supporting them; for all those who get up every morning and despite all odds make it through the day surviving, shining, rising. For the friends and families of Sara, Mahsa, Noor, Qurat Ul Ain and of the countless nameless others like them: your grit is everything.
When it’s been tormenting Day after day. With no respite And I just don’t have it in me to fight To battle on When I’m war-weary When there is no end in sight And all I want to do Is sit in a dark room And let its coolness shroud me Until I can feel the hair Stand on my skin. There Is suddenly more to the day Than the heaviness in my heart And the endlessness of the grey That has been flowing, gripping choking me Keeping me doubled down on my knees There’s more beyond that malevolent mien Images, memories driving me insane
Now there is also something On the outside of me A little chill A little photo on the window sill Both pull at me in different ways One makes icicles To sear through The magma that has congealed Inside of me The other makes my blood flow warm Streaming, coursing through my veins Reminding me that I am home My spirit and my fortitude Still cloak my shoulders Strong and true I sit up straight As they reverberate Through every atom of my being And they chant An age old song Of others like me Who’ve fought on Their hearts fused forever With the loved ones they’ve lost And I know That I’m not wielding my sword alone
A little disclaimer: This particular piece is not a critique of the ideology of marriage itself, but the warped manner in which it is used to keep young women in check. To prevent them from breaking through the heavily-manned barriers created for them by society.
She’s probably flown in on her witch’s broom As her sullen starchiness sweeps the room She looks around her and she spies Young women having a good time She glowers at the girls No dupattas covering their shirts! The lines between her brows grow grim Huddling together like dowager twins Then they rise up in stark rebuke Clamouring, hammering “I’m judging you!”
He sits in the cafe looking around A smoking gun dangling from his mouth As he peers over the smoke It’s gnarled fingers like a cloak Hide the vileness in his eyes He stares at the woman who sits alone She ignores his lecherous stare He taps his gun, his yellow teeth bared Smoke-grey lips curl into an ugly “U” Leering, sneering “I’m judging you!”
This judiciary are the insidious dregs Of a society that has no legs No kind eyes. Their hearts are still Yet they sit there determined to fill Precious spaces in our lives With their hats and their beehives. They hold on to crass old ways As their own insecurities play Out an age old tune Croaking, choking “I’m judging you!”
Give not a hoot nor a call To them sitting in their Halls Of Judgement. They are not fit Not a thimble, not a whit! Stand your ground with those that will Force upon you their own bitter pills Calmly cut them down to size Look them in their jaundiced eyes When you spy their mottled souls Their power fades to judge you at all
Live your life how you will Reach for the stars, ride the wind May you always find your spark Even when all around you is dark Move away when you feel dragged Down, down; making you feel bad. Build within you your own compass Of dignity, courage and kindness So that the only one ever judging you Is YOU dear one, only ever you.
For all the girls, and the women young and old, who are made to feel less, inferior or impaired because they have dreams that are different to the ones dreamt up for them by others. May you find the strength and the passion to be you.
Why must I be what I don’t want to be? Why must I change the state of my dreams? Why must I cower in fear of my world? Why must the story of my life stay untold?
Why must I hide myself away? Why must I look behind me always? Why must there always be danger to me? To my spirit, my soul, my mind, my body?
Why can I not laugh out loud when I want? Why must I hide all my joy in my heart? Why can’t I turn my face to the sun? Why must I hide in the shadows you’ve spun?
Why must I bear the ball and chain of my roots? Why must I remain invisible and mute? Why was I born if not to revel In life’s ever cresting and falling swell?
I’m a child of this world, let me roam free Let me think, let me speak, let me be me I’m a creature of this earth, I belong everywhere Let me spread my wings, let me lay my heart bare
Let me be, let me be, just what I want to be Let me dream, let me dream, what I want to dream Let me walk in this world unafraid and kind Let my life tell the story of my heart and my mind.
A tribute to all the young women who are constantly attempting to be bigger than the patriarchal shadows cast upon them. (This is in specific response to the most recent mauling by hundreds of men, of a girl who was making a video on Independence Day at Minar-e-Pakistan – a monument ironically, symbolising freedom and self determination).
There was once an average girl Average I use to disclaim That she was your happy gal next door Not your wild and sassy dame
Not that there’s much wrong with that It’s for those who tend to decry The women greater than their veil Behind which they ought to hide
Hide away from prying eyes Hide away from sin Hide their bodies, hands and feet Hide their existence
The Sin that marches all about Ready to be employed In the lawless caveman hands Of any man or boy
She decided she was bigger than The shadows that cloaked her being She was going to live her life She would do so many things
She already had a fan base She was a minor TikTok star She would post quirky things Of her adventures near and far
And so it was on Freedom Day Full of patriotic zeal That she went to the Minar* To capture the national feel
And there is when it happened The Sin awaiting its Amen Was pulled to its fruition By hundreds of stir-crazed men
Mauled and savaged was that girl Because she had essayed To be more than the sum of her Shadows and opaque veils
And that’s the ominous legacy Our nation tends to bestow On any woman who attempts To spread her wings, to grow.
There was once an average girl She’s as average as she seems In the Rank and file of nameless girls Who’s dreams have been “washed clean”
* Minar: Means “Tower” in Urdu. Here it refers to Minar-e-Pakistan
This is a tribute to all the women in fact who are oppressed, reduced and shamed in the name of religion, and who still find the strength and dignity to go on another day.
O Talib*, O ye self-professed Learned One,
I have something to say to you. You can whip up monsters from the air and call them your Shariah*. You can torture and mangle “your” women, break their spirits and their bodies and call it the Word of God. You can wear your imperious lungee* and as it swishes around in the wind, you imagine the very angels dancing around you. You grow your hairy beards, and hide your malevolent grins behind them. You rumble and you roar and that is your devotion. You maim and you kill and you call that Divine intervention.
But then secretly you also glance at your reflections and you see what we all see: imperfect, angry, reviled men trying to validate their existence in the only way they can - by wiping the planet clean of the scourge of the Double (H)Ex*. But then you pause with the greatest effort known to the Men of God and you think: How can we annihilate this evil, garbed in soft flesh if we are to propagate and procreate? How else are we to add to the rank and file of Allah’s soldiers?
The conundrum is excruciating. So you continue to brutalize and ravage just short of pushing her six feet under. Just so you can crush her under you instead and make her pay for staying alive. To bear and to beget your many sons. To nurture and feed your rabid army of the Men of Allah.
O Ye Men of Allah,
I have something to say to you. Hear me.
I am the Daughter of the Universe; the Yin to your Yang, the ultimate balancing act of God’s will gone wrong in your hands.
Hear me. We will be who we are: the proud women of Afghanistan. Our honour lies serenely, supremely, completely in the depths of our own eyes, not in yours.
Look at me. Don’t hide behind your fragile male bravado. Look at me. Don’t turn your suddenly shameful eyes away.
Look at me. Look at me.
Look at me as I rise like a Phoenix from the ashes that you kicked aside. Look at me as I look at you. Look at me and see what you have become. Look at me as your heart Drains … Shrivels …. Breaks …. Burns in its own hell.
Hear me, my voice will echo through my sisters even if mine falls silent. You will Hear me.
Look at me, even if it is at my corpse as I go to meet my Maker. You will Look at me.
For Allah hears me. For Allah sees me.
Allah stands behind me as we both look at you. As we both await you.
* Double (H)Ex: Word play on the double X chromosomes that all female mammals possess. Hex is a spell or a curse.
* Talib: Scholar; Learned one.
* Shariah: Islamic law derived from the teachings of the Quran but mainly from the Prophet Muhammad. It is not a list of rules but rather a set of principles on aspects of life, including marriage, divorce, finance and rituals such as fasting and prayer.