The Afghan Women’s Writing Project

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

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


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
under burqa.

RAHALEH; Who wrote my destiny?

MEENA GROUP; We are many

ZEHRA; and if there is one,

MEENA GROUP; we are all
Afghan women.

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.