SHE risked torture, imprisonment, perhaps even death to study literature and write poetry in secret under the Taliban. Last week, when she should have been celebrating the success of her first book, Nadia Anjuman, was beaten to death in Herat, apparently murdered by her husband.
The 25-year-old Afghan had garnered wide praise in literary circles for the book Gule Dudi — Dark Flower — and was at work on a second volume.
Friends say her family was furious, believing that the publication of poetry by a woman about love and beauty had brought shame on it.
“She was a great poet and intellectual but, like so many Afghan women, she had to follow orders from her husband,” said Nahid Baqi, her best friend at Herat University.
Self Storage, the novel I'm currently revising, features a woman from Afghanistan. As I continue to work on the novel, I will be thinking of Nadia Anjuman. I hope my story can raise further awareness of the plight of Afghani women.
Afghan human rights groups condemned Anjuman’s death as evidence that the government of President Hamid Karzai has failed to address the issue of domestic violence. It is especially tragic because she was one of a group of courageous women, known as the Sewing Circles of Herat, who risked their lives to keep the city’s literary scene active under the Taliban regime.You can find out how to sponsor Afghani women who are teaching other Afghani women to read and write here. You can also learn more about the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan here.
Women were banned from working or studying by the Taliban, whose repressive edicts forbade women to laugh out loud or wear shoes that clicked. Female writers belonging to Herat’s Literary Circle realised that one of the few things that women were still allowed to do was to sew. So three times a week groups of women in burqas would arrive at a doorway marked Golden Needle Sewing School.
Had the authorities investigated, they would have discovered that the sewing students never made any clothes. Once inside the school, a brave professor of literature from Herat University would talk to them about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and other banned writers.
Under a regime where even teaching a daughter to read was a crime, they might have been hanged if they had been caught.