I am from Afghanistan, you are from the USA, and we are from all countries. We must be the messengers of love and forgiveness around the world. —Friba
Narrative is like music, a language that easily crosses boundaries of nationality, race, and religion. Through story we explain our lives and understand ourselves. As part of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, women in Afghanistan are learning to express their own stories, and honing their writing and English skills, while readers around the world witness intimate and universal truths that transcend facts of life in a war zone. In both their prose and poetry, cries of pain give way to expressions of strength:
You, Love, are wounded in your cage.
I bathe you with my tears.
I, Woman, am armed.
I forget my enemy,
from “Sparrow and Sword,” by N
A new body of work, released today at awwproject.org, came out of a collaboration between the Fetzer Institute and AWWP. The essays and poems included were written by a group of 13 writers who participated in a three-month online writing workshop focused solely on themes of love and forgiveness. It seemed almost unlikely to suggest this as a topic to women who have suffered to the extent these women have and, as some still do who have been able to come to the United States to study. We recently asked one of those young women to speak on behalf of AWWP in an upcoming CNN segment. She replied that, for the safety of her family in Afghanistan, she could only do it “if my last name and the name of my city are not used, and if my face is not shown. But I do have a message to share that may be helpful.”
This is the strength readers find in the Love and Forgiveness writings, a force that comes from the human need for expression, for peace, for a better life and sometimes from the act of forgiveness itself.
My head exploded, full of their talking, talking. They talked and talked and sold me. They laughed, happy. I was sad and crying, had no power over this. I played, the child I was. I played, but had to go toward the life that would be mine. My head exploded, ... I was not a good bride. I was not a perfect woman, because I was thirteen. ... They talked and talked and beat me. Filled with pain, I was a mother, but had nothing. I had forgiven, all of my life, move now toward my future, happy. My head exploded. My head exploded. I love my infant, my family. I have forgiven all—parents, husband, the government. I am happy. My baby laughs and I laugh. Life laughs, and I am happy.
These aspiring writers would love to hear from you. To read and share comments on their work, follow this link.
More writings, like N’s and Massoma’s and supported by the Fetzer Institute, will be featured at awwproject.org June 10-17. Watch the AWWP web site for more writings this summer, as well as an educational curriculum on love and forgiveness, designed for classroom use in the United States and Afghanistan.
Lori Noack is the Associate Director of the Afghan Women's Writing Project.