The Voices of Women
There is an astounding article in the “New York Times Magazine” of April 29, 2012 reporting on “Why Afghan Women Risk Death To Write Poetry”, written by Eliza Griswold.
Women from the outlying provinces in Afghanistan phone in their poems to Radio Azadi (Radio Liberty). Mirmar Baheer, a woman’s literary society, based in Kabul, airs these poems on Saturday afternoons, when the group broadcasts from The Ministry of Women’s Affairs. This group meets openly in Kabul, but in the rural provinces, it functions mostly in secret.
Afghan women voice their thoughts and feelings in two line poems called landai, a traditional Pashto folk poetry form. Landai has long been a vehicle of rebellion for Afghan women, many of whom are not allowed to leave their houses.
These poems have become a simple, defiant cry against the oppression of women.
Landai, literally means a short, poisonous snake and these poems are meant to be taken seriously. Their themes of love, grief, war, exile and independence are serious ones.
The women question God’s will, protest the politics of their country and express their deepest longings in these poems. The act of sharing them takes great courage. The women are ridiculed and beaten and even sometimes risk death as poet-martyrs.
The poems have become the voice of the collective---of the woman’s movement inside Afghanistan. These women want to be heard. They are a powerful inspiration to all women.
Maybe it is time for American women, and I include the women in America’s religious orders, to begin writing landai. There is nothing like a poisonous snake to get a man’s attention.
“My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.”