Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Zarifa Qazizadah: Afghan Supergran

By Guest Contributor Lara Alamad, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Zarifa Qazizadah. Image: BBC News.

To people of a certain age, the word Supergran might bring to mind a Scottish superhero from the 80′s, but this week a headline about an Afghan “supergran” was a world away from Saturday afternoon TV.

The article tells us that Zarifah Qazizadah is Afghanistan’s only female village chief; in fact, she’s only the second woman to ever hold this position. So what did she do to achieve such a level of authority that is so rarely allowed for women? Certainly her background was not unusual: she had to leave school at the age of 10 (something she regrets, stating that she was always top of the class prior to this), was married in her early teens and went on to have 15 children and subsequently 36 grandchildren.

So, in 2004 when she first ran for office, the men laughed: not only at a woman seeking a role of authority, but also at her claims that she would connect the village to the national grid and providing electricity, something to which only a third of the population of Afghanistan has access.

Continue reading

Excerpt: The New York Times On The Female Poets Of Kabul

Meena lives in Gereshk, a town of 50,000 people in Helmand, the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Helmand has struggled with the double burden of being one of the world’s largest opium producers and an insurgent stronghold. Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access. She doesn’t meet outsiders face to face.

“I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,” she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed. “I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,” she went on. “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.” Meena gulped. She was trying not to cry. On the other end of the line, Amail, who is prone to both compassion and drama, began to weep with her. Tears mixed with kohl dripped onto the page of the spiral notebook in which Amail was writing down Meena’s verses. Meena recited a Pashtun folk poem called a landai:

“My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.”

“I am the new Rahila,” she said. “Record my voice, so that when I get killed at least you’ll have something of me.”

Amail grimaced, uncertain how to respond. “Don’t call yourself that,” she snapped. “Do you want to die, too?”
- From “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry,” by Eliza Griswold

-

Excerpt: The Independent On The Spin Control Behind Robert Bales

“Apparently deranged”, “probably deranged”, journalists announced, a soldier who “might have suffered some kind of breakdown” (The Guardian), a “rogue US soldier” (Financial Times) whose “rampage” (The New York Times) was “doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness” (Le Figaro). Really? Are we supposed to believe this stuff? Surely, if he was entirely deranged, our staff sergeant would have killed 16 of his fellow Americans. He would have slaughtered his mates and then set fire to their bodies. But, no, he didn’t kill Americans. He chose to kill Afghans. There was a choice involved. So why did he kill Afghans? We learned yesterday that the soldier had recently seen one of his mates with his legs blown off. But so what?

The Afghan narrative has been curiously lobotomised – censored, even – by those who have been trying to explain this appalling massacre in Kandahar. They remembered the Koran burnings – when American troops in Bagram chucked Korans on a bonfire – and the deaths of six Nato soldiers, two of them Americans, which followed. But blow me down if they didn’t forget – and this applies to every single report on the latest killings – a remarkable and highly significant statement from the US army’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the report of Allen’s words from my morning paper and placed it inside my briefcase for future reference.

Allen told his men that “now is not the time for revenge for the deaths of two US soldiers killed in Thursday’s riots”. They should, he said, “resist whatever urge they might have to strike back” after an Afghan soldier killed the two Americans. “There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss,” Allen continued. “There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. Now is not the time for revenge, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are.”

Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in Afghanistan.
- From “Madness is not the reason for this massacre,” by Robert Fisk