Thursday, December 01, 2005

Last month, Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman was murdered, most likely by her husband.

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.

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.
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.


Dominique said...


I rented Osama over the weekend, and I was in tears through most of it. Have you seen this film?

gayle said...

Hi Dominique!

I haven't seen Osama yet--it's a film I've been wanting to see ever since I first heard about it. I'll try to check it out soon...

Masha said...

Gayle, you are the best, and good for you for highlighting conditions for Afghan women. They definitely still have a long long way to go. And yet, some of the most inspirational women I've ever met are from and living in Afghanistan.


gayle said...

Masha! How wonderful to hear from you!

I would love to hear more about some of the Afghani women you've met...

I can't wait to read more of your amazing work! (For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to come upon Masha's writing yet, she's the author of the incredible novels The Distance Between Us and Staircase of a Thousand Steps.)

Thanks so much for stopping by--I hope our paths will cross very soon!