Another wonderful night – 175 come to hear OUT OF SILENCE: READINGS OF PROSE AND POEMS BY AFGHAN WOMEN last night at Theater J. It marks the broadening of our Middle East Festival focus on Israeli women to now encompass women in Afghanistan.
The most moving pieces came at the beginning and the end: A wonderful choral orchestration for voices–9 beautiful actresses reading the compelling poetry of an Afghan woman named Shofoga:
ZEHRA FAZAL; “WOMEN WALKING ALONE” by SHOGOFA
JESSICA FRANCES DUKES; I am from long line of women who have walked alone …
From a land that smells of the blood of innocent people
ADRIENNE NELSON; From a people who have lost everything in war – sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers
ELMINA KULASIC; From a people feeling hopeless
ALLYSON CURIN; I am from long line of women who have walked alone
ERICA ROSE; I am proud to be the daughter of a brave woman
DAWN URSULA; Who never gave up and showed her children the right way
HANNAH HESSEL; Who sacrificed herself,
RAHALEH NASRI; Who in childhood slapped me once to remind me
How important it was to concentrate on my lessons
ALL; She was the best mother in the world
ZEHRA; I am from long line of women who walked alone…
ELMINA; From a place where I could never hear what my heart told me
And I could only follow what family told me
ERICA; From a place where I couldn’t express my wishes and I hid my hopes
HANNAH; Where I couldn’t support my rights and I had to accept
RAHALEH; Where everybody said
ALL; You can’t do it
ALLYSON; You can’t go ahead; you can’t achieve your goal
JESSICA; I am from a place where girls are exchanged for money and forced to marry
ADRIENNE; Where I was humiliated for being for a quiet girl
ZEHRA; Where a teacher told me, “I don’t care what you think
Because you can’t do anything.”
RAHALEH; I am from a discouraging world that killed my talent because I was girl
DAWN; I am from long line of women who have walked alone…
HANNAH; From women who failed many times in different situations
ERICA; I lost my confidence when I lost my mother
ADRIENNE; Feeling alone without her guidance and losing hope
ELMINA; Feeling afraid to gain knowledge in case there is no freedom
ZEHRA; From a culture where girls never see the outside
ALLYSON; Sitting in a cage like birds who don’t know how to fly
JESSICA; When my mother leaves me, she tells me—
“Find your way. I cannot always be with you.”
RAHALEH; She passed on the responsibility to me.
ALL; I am from long line of women who have walked alone…
RAHALEH; I know now how to enter society
And find my answers though I’m alone
ERICA; Learn from my experience though I have failed many times
ADRIENNE; I never give up
ALLYSON; I find my way and learn nothing is impossible to achieve
DAWN; I ignore those things that destroy my mind
JESSICA; I learn that no one can help me except me
HANNAH; I accept reality and I’m ready to face any problem
ZEHRA; Now I have ambition to achieve my goal
ELMINA; To help my people bring peace to the next generation
RAHALEH; I am from long line women who have walked alone…
* * *
The final interweaving of two poems is a joint recitation of the two poems.
One by Roya
One by Meena
ROYA GROUP will be; DAWN, HANNAH,RAHALEH,ELMINA, ERIKA.
MEENA GROUP will be ZEHRA, ALLYSON, ADRIENNE, JESSICA.
DAWN; I would love to be anything in this world
but not a woman
ZEHRA; My face hidden, I smile,
DAWN; I could be a parrot I could be a female sheep I could be a deer or a sparrow living in a tree
ZEHRA; It is I,
Afghan woman, under burqa
DAWN; But not an Afghan woman.
ZEHRA; I try to be brave, show my presence.
DAWN; I could be a Turkish lady
ALLYSON; See me; don’t see me, but I am here.
I don’t care how hot it is under burqa.
I am invisible.
HANNAH; (move to join DAWN) With a kind brother to take my hand I could be Tajik or I could be Iranian or I could be an Arab With a husband to tell me I am beautiful
ZEHRA; I am part of my community.
DAWN; But I am Afghan woman.
ADRIENNE; (move to join Zehra)I am here, Afghan woman
under Taliban burqa.
RAHALEH; (move to join DAWN) When there is need I stand beside it
ERIKA; (move to join DAWN) When there is risk I stand in front
JESSICA; (move to join ZEHRA) I cannot use chader namaz—
for I will be recognized,
my life threatened if they know
what I do under burqa.
ELMINA; (move to join DAWN) When there is sorrow I grab it When there are rights I stand behind them
MEENA GROUP; They will make me stop working,
take my job, my life.
DAWN; Might is right and I am a woman Always alone Always an example of weakness My shoulders are heavy with the weight of pains.
ZEHRA; But I am an Afghan woman who wants
to stay safe, continue my fight.
DAWN;When I want to talk My tongue is blamed
RAHALEH; My voice causes pain
HANNAH; Crazy ears can’t tolerate me
ERIKA;My hands are useless
ELMINA; I can’t do anything with My foolish legs
DAWN; I walk with No destination.
ZEHRA; Yes, I am brave under burqa,
enslaved in my generation of war.
ADRIENNE; Banned from education, my illiterate
sisters cannot work.
JESSICA; Some hide, learn in home-based classes,
ALLYSON; work today, still at risk.
ROYA GROUP; Until what time must I accept to suffer?
ZEHRA; Foreign women come to see us,
JESSICA; under burqa,
ALLYSON; take our picture—
ZEHRA; we are interesting,
ADRIENNE; novel for them.
DAWN; When will nature announce my release?
ZEHRA;They don’t understand
our burqas are jail and safety made of fabric.
We are hidden beneath blue cloth,
MEENA GROUP; confined, yet secure.
MEENA GROUP; Where is Justice’s house?
ZEHRA; I am Afghan woman, working
RAHALEH; Who wrote my destiny?
MEENA GROUP; We are many
ZEHRA; and if there is one,
MEENA GROUP; we are all
ELMINA; Tell him
ERIKA; (as if an echo)Tell him
HANNAH; (ditto) Tell him
ZEHRA; Insha’Allah, we will one day
remove the burqa.
DAWN; I would love to be anything in nature
ZEHRA;Yes, it is I, Afghan woman, under burqa—
DAWN; But not a woman
ROYA GROUP; Not an Afghan woman.
ALL; Remember me.