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:


زنجير عشق


عشق او باز اندر آوردم به بند

کوشش بسيار نامد سودمند

توسنی کردم ندانستم همی

کز کشيدن سختتر گردد کمند

عشق دريايی کرانه ناپديد

کی توان کردن شنا ای مستمند

عاشقی خواهی که تا پايان بری

پس ببايد ساخت با هر ناپسند

زشت بايد ديد و انگاريد خوب

زهر بايد خورد و پنداريد قند


The English translation:


Love’s chain


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!  Love

O!  Gift of paradise

O!  Great fire

I know

You inferno!


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

My beloved

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”:


Waiting for…


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

And we

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

And hotter

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.


-And hand-grenade?

-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 adult,

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 water

Like air

Like a smile

Like a tear

Like love

Like care

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!