Dr Parween Pazhwak on March 8th in Stockholm
Salaam! (May peace be upon you.)
God Eftermiddag (Swedish) (Goot afternoon!)
Please accept my greetings on the occasion of Women’s International Day… congratulations from a woman to other women… for the success that we all share, in remaining so strong and determine.
I cannot wait longer to thank the Swedish community for Afghanistan and the Afghan Pen Club for organizing this grand gathering.
Also as an Afghan, I want to thank those who on this historical occasion desired to introduce another face of Afghan women… a beautiful face that few have seen and heard of… the initiation and endless efforts to make such a grand meeting possible deserves much appreciation.
I want to begin my talk with a poem from Rabeha Balkhi, who is known as Mother of Dari poetry. She lived during 14th century. Her father was a powerful ruler of Balkh who paid special attention to her daughter Rabeha Balkhi because of her smartness, talent and beauty.
Rabeha Balkhi fell in love with a slave named Baktazh. She wrote beautiful love poetry for him. After her father’s death, her brother came to know about Rabeha’s affection for Baktazh, the slave. He slit Rabeha’s wrist and locked her in a sauna like place. Rabeha lost her life for her innocent and pure love. Even her brother knew that Rabeha never had any physical relationship with Baktazh. Something, will be considered dishonor to the family in Rabeha’s culture.
Rabeha did not give up till the last moments of her life. She wrote her love poetry with her blood all over the walls.
I think and believe Rabeha Balkhi’s life can very well be the symbol for the strong soul of an Afghan woman in love…
I would like to first recite one of her poetry in Dari language so that you could hear the sweetness of the words and rhythm used by her:
The English translation:
His love puts in chains again
Excessive endeavor (to free myself) was in vain
I acted like an unbroken horse
And knew not that a pull tightens a lasso
Love is a sea with an invisible shore
How is it possible to swim across,
O sensible man?
If thou wish to be accomplished in love
Thou should love things unpleasant
Ugly things should be seen and considered charming
Poison should be taken and reckoned sugar-candy.
It is amazing how we still define and practice love in east… a boy and a girl in love… would express their love to each other just by looking into each other’s eyes and smile when they pass each other on the way. Many times young, innocent, pure love do not reach union… but love and loving remains strong… falling in love is considered a spiritual experience…
O! Gift of paradise
O! Great fire
For a woman in my culture the limitations starts from the day she is born as a girl… this has been the case for majority of cultures in the past and still is… her upbringing in the family will be different from what is taught to her brothers… her goals in life, her responsibilities are so different and so is her hopes and dreams… she will not allow herself to fly high and free of what has been taught to her, the conventional way that she is supposed to be… yet most of women deep inside their hearts will know what they really wish for… and they will know that they are all very human and normal wishes.
O! Sweet grape
Hanging on the highest vine
Of my hope
You are not sour
My hand is short!
There have been many times that my heart ached… when I have told myself that my little wish is not acceptable in my society, I am a girl… and there have been times that my heart has broken… when I have seen how much women have to suffer if they dare to have a dream that often society sees as a bad dream with and awful interpretation…
O! Hidden desires
O! Chain-like desires
O! Simple and beautiful desires
I am a prisoner like you
We are chained up in the same row
If I was not prisoner
You were free to be true
If you were not prohibited
I was not a prisoner too!
I talked about the platonic love before, but love is always with passion, everywhere, the deeper the love… the deeper the passion… more restrictions and barriers causes more yearning and courage… and there are always few who break free of prohibitions and follow their heart and feelings…
Deposit your lip’s scent on somebody
Red rose withers soon…
Said the breeze.
As night turns to half in June
As the moon reaches puberty
As a breeze embraces the red rose
And flowers are unconscious in rows
Come and kiss me close.
Your hear women talking of being strong, empowered, supported… yes! But how can you achieve something that you do not believe in? How can you show your weakness to those who will enjoy it and use it against you? How can you trust a helping hand when the ones offering it keep their own wives, girls and sisters imprisoned at home? We need to keep the show on… we are strong… things are improving… thanks for your help, but I rather do everything by myself!
Don’t give me consolation
I’m ashamed of my tears
Go without looking at me
I don’t want you to find me weak
And give me the opportunity
To carve for my cheek
A mask of stone
To hide and seek.
As you know the Afghan women have carried the burden of war on their delicate and patient shoulders more than one time. I have expressed their longing for peace, peace of mind… in a poem twenty years ago. This poem was translated into English and French languages four years back and got published in a book named “The Hidden face of Afghan women”:
The nights and stars together with us
Our searing pain bemoan
The nights and clouds in grief
With us together weep
The nights and leaves on the trees
Tremble and shake with us from fear
The nights and gusting winds
In unison fan our fuming rage
Through many and unending night
With stifled cries,
Light the burning torch of prayer,
Waiting, waiting for… the coming of dawn.
This longing has been dragged through coldest winters of the war:
On rising each winter morn
With pen-like burning finger
I etch out your name
On the frosted window pane
And peek though the calligraphic line
Wondering when new Spring will shine.
But the soul of the Afghan women, even in the darkest times, has not surrendered to hopelessness… the farthest sign of hope and light has been endured:
There is a star,
Who give light to the depths of my night
Till this star is showing
The hope mark
I will not feel myself
Captive in the dark.
It is not easy to carry on the burden of your unfulfilled dreams and hopes, without any achievement and real hope. I admire my people for finding their way during worst days:
Yesterday was mirage
Today is a bitter thirst
Hope for tomorrow
Maybe I will find a spring of water.
Beside women, the most vulnerable segment of our society, the children, had been the innocent victims of constant violence, hunger, disease and war. These children have been denied to live their life as a child. Not only, they have not been the messengers of love and hope for the future, but those of them who have survived the killings and live through tomorrow… have sometimes repeated the same acts of violence which were executed upon them and left them with scarred souls…
The poem titled as “Interview with and Afghan kid” was written in the year 1988 at Kabul. It was ten years since war had began in my country, Afghanistan. My sister Nillab Pazhwak has translated it English later.
Interview With An Afghan kid
-Afghan kid, do you know what does war mean?
-War means life
I am ten years old
It is ten years that there is war.
-Afghan kid, do you know what does bombing mean?
-It is like rain pouring from sky.
-Afghan kid, do you know what is a tank?
-I have rode in one
Do you want to know what is the difference between an armor-plated engine and a tank?
-Afghan kid, do you know what is a rocket?
-It has a sound like a whistle,
I have heard it many times.
-One fell down in my neighborhood last night.
-And bullets, cartridges?
-Are you making fun of me?
Who does not know them!
-Afghan kid, do you know how does peace mean?
_A golden dream that never comes true.
-Afghan kid, do you know how does a wheat look?
-The one that grows only in the field?
-Yes and fields?
-I do not know where are they.
-Afghan kid, do you know how a bright future looks like?
-I am tired of stories told by elderly women.
-And what do you know about childhood?
-Oh my dear, I think you are coming from the lands where one lives long!
I might not have time that long
I have already in the past ten years been a child,
And I fell I am old as well!
I remember my nights in Kabul… through out the war. I slept in a room next to my parent room… my younger sister was sleeping in a bed next to me. I could hear the sound of explosions, from fighting outside the city… there came nights that I could see the light brightening the sky, explosions getting closer… and then cane nights when we felt walls around our house can keep us safe no more…my Father and Mother had worry in their eyes, looking at their young daughters… and we knew why… but I still felt lucky in that home with my family… my heart so full of hopes and my mind full of ideas… I just didn’t want to leave my homeland. I wished for peace as a child:
Like a smile
Like a tear
We need you
Peace comes here.
When the explosions made me close my eyes, I was thinking about the happy times, even though if they were gone by the wind, and I wanted to return to my childhood:
Close your eyes,
And wish the wind blows you away…
In the land of hay and play
In the time of laugh and Hooray!
In the day all sunny and bright
In the way all green and wide
In the sea full of balloons and kite
In the trees full of apples all ripe
In the air all true and good
In the Island of your childhood
Close your eyes
And wish the wind blows you away
The wind can’t wait and stay
Now I want to share with you a little about myself… as you know my name is Parween Pazhwak. I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1967 and I graduated as a Medical Doctor in the year 1991. In spite of many joyful memories from my days as a student, I want to rather ignore this part of my life. Because with embarrassment, I always remember how as a Doctor I did not get the chance serve my people in need or I did not take the risk to live anymore in war and grab the chance to serve my people.
At present I live with my husband and four children in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I am a board member of the Afghan Women’s Organization. A community based N.G. O. I also volunteer my time with Afghan Women Organization’s over seas projects. My husband Hozhaber Shinwary is a true artist and well-known cartoonist who has been best friend and supporter to me in my career as a writer and poet.
I have published four books in Dari (Farsi) language. Two poetry books, one collection of short stories and one novel.
As a writer and a poet, I fell the need to help my people and to make a difference in their lives. I think writhing books and getting them published is an important and essential part of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Especially when it is targeted towards women, children and youth and most important of all when it is written and provided by women writers. This will sure make a big change to the level of thinking in people.
In my most recent book, the novel titled as “Salam Marjan” (Marjan is a girl’s name that means coral.)
The story is written from the eye of an orphan girl. I have again tried to reflect the aspiration and energy that an Afghan women bravely and amazingly maintains in life to remain truly alive:
Salam Marjan, Chapter 8:
“Oh… I had passed through the way… had reached the peak of the mountain. The more they had tried to kill me, I had remained alive. The more they had cut me, I had grown…, each time I was broken, I had recovered. The more they had forced infertility I became fertile.
Oh… I was believed in… me within me had turned to source of empowerment and believe.”
At the end I am presenting you a poem that is the true story of my life. And these are the words coming from the bottom of my heart:
The Tree and Me
When I was a child
My father planted a tree
In the yard just for me.
The tree was almond
With leaves all green
With blossom all white
Like a symbol of peace
All day, all night.
I watered the tree
She gave me the freshness
We wanted to be forever
Friend and together.
But one day my Father said:
“You must say good bye to the tree
Good bye to the sky
Good bye to the birds
Good bye to the sun
Because the war has begun
There will be no more peace
No more fun
Just the sounds of the gun.”
I went to the tree:
“I am helpless to fly.”
The tree didn’t cry
“You are not the only one…
But we must to stay with the land
With our own lovely land
You by heart me by hand.”
I was so shy
She was so high.
What happened with my tree?
With my own baby sister tree?
Maybe she burned with a bomb?
Maybe she destroyed with a rocket?
Maybe she just simply cut in the pieces
With a scary axe?
Go away hopelessness
Go away darkness!
I am sure my tree is save and sound
Her leaves give the oxygen for the smoky sky
Her branches give sweet almonds
To the hungry orphans
Who are trying to be with the land
By heart and by hand.
I hope I will be back again
And will see my tree
Grow up and free.
Tack, for att ni lyssnade! (Swedish)
Thank you for listening!