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An Afghan writer and her pen, caught between blurred lines

Naema Ghani is an Afghan writer, poet, children's and women's rights activist. (Credit: Naema Ghani/ Facebook)

"I used to believe that if I tried harder, I could achieve my dreams. But now I have reached a path where everything is blurred and my dreams are fading." 

Afghan writer Naema Ghani always knew what she wanted to be growing up. Over the last twenty years, she forged a path for herself as a recognised author, poet, and champion of children’s and women’s rights.

But now she says there is no telling what the future holds for her and other women as the country’s de facto rulers tighten their control on their freedoms. More than one month into Taliban control, fears for the rights and education of women and girls’ have only grown.

“Before, I believed that I could achieve my goals through hard work and perseverance but now I no longer think so, because nothing is clear,” she explains over the phone from her home in a suburb of the Afghan capital, where she lives with her brother and sister.  "I am confused, I don't know what will happen next."

Ghani is the head of the National Children's Literature Foundation in Kabul, and several of her books have been published. In 2018, a competition on children's literature organised by Kabul University shortlisted her book, Peace and Nature, as one of the top four entries.

She is best known for her children's books but has also written many articles about women's rights in Afghanistan. Her poetry is a treasure trove of feminine love and emotions.

“When I started writing, I knew that I would be faced with lots of obstacles but I had a goal and that is why I never tired of going ahead,” she says.

Ghani earned a bachelor's degree in Islamic education from Kabul Education University and has been working as a teacher for more than 10 years.  But new Taliban rules mean that she can only teach children of primary school age.

“I still go to school but I can only teach my younger students who are under sixth grade. Other girls are not allowed by the Taliban to come to school. It makes me sad,” she says.

In the last twenty years, Afghan women have been fighting to advance their rights and to bring about changes in their life. They have made many gains in fields like technology, music, sport and cinema.

“It was not easy for Afghan women to get here. They have had to continue to struggle to have the right of education for their children and for themselves, in order to have a better life.”

Asked about the effect of the recent change in government on her personal life, she says:

“I may forever lose my job as a teacher, as well as my position in society as a female writer and children’s and women's rights activist. It hurts when I think about it.”

“Financially, it is also problematic,” she continues. “My salary is around $120 and I have been living without it for two months. I do not know how much other women like me are currently suffering from poverty in Afghanistan, this situation is painful.”

More than 80,000 Afghan civilians are estimated to have been airlifted out of Kabul after the Taliban took control with the UN warning that more than half a million could flee by the year-end

“Leaving my country or staying in my country, when I think about these two options, I can’t decide which one will be better because both of them would be difficult for me,” says Ghani.

“In either case, I have to start from the beginning and move forward. I have to work hard to overcome the coming tribulation, and it will not be easy.”

A translation of one of Ghani’s poems:

Mona Lisa!

My smile

Is more painful than yours

But, in this epoch

There are no longer

Artistic eyes

This article was written by Tooba Neda Safi, an Afghan journalist, poet and women’s rights activist now living in Switzerland after being forced to leave her country in 2014. Every week she will share stories from other women in her home country whose lives have been upturned since the Taliban took control.

Dispatches from women in Afghanistan