Monday, November 21, 2005

Afghan Woman Poet Killed for Writing

Mikaela says:
Of course the American papers had nothing on this important cultural item. A rising poet star in Afghanistan, Nadia Anjuman, just 25 years old was allegedly murdered by her husband, according to the London Times.

She had a 6-month old baby. She attended a "sewing school" 3 days a week, where a renegade professor flaunted the edict not to educate women and taught them to read the classics and write poetry.

Her first book of verse, Gule Dudi — Dark Flower, won international critical acclaim. She was working on her second book when she died. Her family was disgraced to have such a daughter and outraged at her defiance to continue writing. Her husband claims her death was a suicide.

Her poetry alluded to an acute sense of confinement. “I am caged in this corner, full of melancholy and sorrow,” she wrote in one “ghazal”, or lyrical poem, adding: “My wings are closed and I cannot fly.” It concludes: “I am an Afghan woman and must wail.”
Let us remember here in the land of the free and sometimes brave that every act of cultural creation is radical.

I read a poem the other night to a public audience for the first time in almost ten years. I was one of two women who signed up.

We must remember some of us are more empowered to speak -- even in America -- and that is the duty of all of us to make room for the least-heard voices. For those of us who write but are too modest or too scared to share, speak up! Speak up! Speak up! Add your voice to the revolution.

We need to hear before we are all silenced.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the NY Times ran a piece about this on Nov. 8 by Carlotta Gall (Final, Section A, Page 4, Column 4).

8:45 AM  
Blogger mjae said...

I stand corrected. Thank you!

1:04 PM  
Blogger mjae said...

----- Original Message -----
From: Lawless and Leonard
To: Gulf of Maine Books
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:18 PM
Subject: Afghani Poet, Nadia Anjuman, dies from beating

Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman, 25, has died from a beating. In researching across the internet, gathering facts from the various articles about her death, I have found a number of variations on the basic story. I will present here a summary of the story, including the variations, but I will admit at the outset that I am several thousand miles, several languages and a number of cultures removed from the basic true story.

Nadia Anjuman, 25, a poet and journalist living in the city of Herat, Afghanistan, died from injuries to her head after being beaten by her husband. She died on either Nov. 4 or Nov. 6, in either her home or the hospital. Her husband and mother were detained. After being arrested and accused her husband admitted striking her, but no charges were immediately filed. The family did not allow a post mortem, so the exact cause of death cannot be known, She leaves behind a 6 month old child. (Most sources said a girl, but some said a boy. This fact is important, considering the family now left to raise the child.)

Nadia Anjuman, born in 1980, was a poet and journalist who risked imprisonment, torture or death to study literature and write poetry in Afganistan during the reign of the Taliban She was one of a group of women known as the Sewing Circles of Herat, women who risked their lives to study and create during the Taliban era, gathering under the guise of sewing lessons at the Golden Needle Sewing School, where they were taught literature by a professor from the local university. This remarkable group of women has been chronicled in Christina Lamb's book The Sewing Circles of Herat, and Christina Lamb has written a piece for the Times of London called "woman poet slain for her verse" (see reference at end - )

After the Taliban fell Nadia went to Herat University, and published her first book Gul e dodi "Dark Flower" or "Dark Red Flower" in 2005. The book has been especially popular among poets in Herat, and has reached enthusiastic audiences in Afganistan and Iran. Her poems speak of love, emotion, religion, and allude to the hardships still facing the women of Afganistan. In one of her ghazals she says:" I am caged in this corner, full of melancholy and sorrow" She goes on to say "my wings are closed and I cannot fly" and ends the poem saying "I am an Afghan woman, and must wail."

Friends were quoted as saying that her family was upset, believing that the publication of poetry about love and beauty by a woman had brought shame on them.

Her husband, Farid Ahmad Majid Mia, 29 and also a graduate of the literature program, confessed to hitting her during an argument, but not to killing her. Speaking from prison, he has said: "I have not killed Naia. How could I kill someone I loved. We had a small argument, and I only slapped her on the face once. She went to another room and when she returned she told me she had swallowed poison. She said she had forgiven me for slapping her and pleaded "Don't tell anyone I have swallowed poison. Tell them I died from a heart attack"

The authorities are skeptical, saying that one of the reasons they suspect the husband is that he did not take her to the hospital until four hours after hitting her, and, with no post mortem, there is no way of proving the cause of her death

More recently, police officers at the jail have said that her husband was taken to the hospital on November 11 after trying to commit suicide by "injecting" (possibly ingesting?) kerosene from the oil lamp in his cell. Doctors also said that he had been on a hunger strike.

Thousands attended her funeral. One student at Kabul University said "Students everywhere are so upset over this. She was such a prominent poet in Afghanistan." Nahid Bagi, a close friend from Herat University, said "She was a great poet and intellectual but, like so many Afghan women, she had to follow orders from her husband."

United Nations spokesman Adrian Edwards called her death "tragic and a great loss to Afghanistan", adding that "violence against women remains dramatic in Afghanistan, in its intensity and its pervasiveness. It needs to be investigated, and anyone found responsible needs to be dealt with in a proper court of law."

Recently elected Afghan woman legislator Fauzia Gailani said " In Islam no one has the right to hit their wife. We hope the government will take action and stop crimes like this."

Afghan human rights groups condemned the death of Nadia Anjuman as evidence that the government of President Hamid Karzai has failed to address the issue of violence against women. Afghanistan's new constitution guarantees equal rights for women, but the continuing power of American-backed warlords, whose repressive views are similar to the Taliban's, have left women with few opportunities for equal rights, or protection from violence and death.

Nadia Anjuman is dead. Another voice lost, but her poems will live on, in the hearts of the women of Afghanistan, and will reach out to the rest of the world.

To Read Christina Lamb's article "Woman poet slain for her verse",,2089-1869842,00html

To reach a tribute site for Nadja Anjuman:

To see a photo of Nadja Anjuman

To donate money to help Afghani women teach other Afghani women and girls to read and write:

and to learn more about the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan go to:

Gary Lawless

2:37 PM  

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