Saturday, July 11, 2009

News from The Afghan Women's Writing Project

Issue No. 2 July 2009

If you haven't perused the blog written by Afghan women writers lately, take a look now - you don't want to miss the essay from Freshta about the time a gun-toting Taliban member confronted her on the street as she was heading to a secret, forbidden school. Or the one from Fattema about a woman who twice attempted suicide before finally escaping from her Afghan husband and their home in Iran. Or Zaralasht's story of fleeing the start of war. Other compelling essays and poems are highlighted below, with more on the site; encouraged and mentored by our teachers, these brave women are doing breathtaking work.

At the same time, our efforts continue to supply them with laptops and jump drives so they can keep writing even as conditions grow more restrictive, particularly in the south. Just a few days left to plop down ten dollars, tax deductible, for a ticket for the literary raffle being run by author Cari Luna, (whose short fiction, btw, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize last year.) Great prizes for those who love words and music! See the list here. You can also help by forwarding this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested. And if you are a creative writing teacher and would like to volunteer to teach online in a three- or four-week block, please let us know.

The Afghan Women's Writing Project was begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women - too often silenced - to enter the world directly, without any mediation. This project is possible only because of the outstanding American women authors and teachers who generously donate their time and energy. Additionally, the tireless contributions of webmaster extraordinaire Jeff Lyons and web designers Terry Dougherty and Rose Daniels have been crucial. Notice our new banner; many thanks to humanitarian, photographer and former TV journalist Kathleen Rafiq for shooting this photograph in Kabul. We hope to have a coordinator in Afghanistan soon. And our inspiring partners are SOLA in Afghanistan and the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation based in Vermont; please visit thei

Be in touch with any questions. Thank you.
Masha Hamilton
Narrow Escape

My heart was shaking. My clothes were moist with sweat, which fell from my body like rain. Suddenly one of them jumped from the car with his gun and appeared in front of me. "Where you are going?"

By Freshta

Click here to read the full story.
Hope Helps Me Move On

Sara's story: "After a long journey, we arrived in Iran. My step-brother took me to my husband's house. When I first saw him, I couldn't believe my eyes. My husband was Afghan but he had an Iranian wife with four children. His oldest child was twenty years old, older than me."

By Fattema

Click here to read the full story.
My Eyes - A Poem

I accept pain for those eyes.
I accept tears for those eyes.
I love poetry for those eyes.
They are
book of poems.

By Roya

Click here to read the full poem.
From Idyllic Life to War

Our parents carried us in their arms and ran barefoot from our home. We were not the only family running away without knowing where we were going. The street was filled with people just like us who were trying to flee the fighting and killing....Our parents tried to not let us see the dead people who were lying along our path.

By Zaralasht

Click here to read the full story.

Mother's Day in Farah

Ballal, a six-year-old boy, gives his mother flowers at a provincial ceremony this Mother's Day. But on the same day, a young midwife is fatally shot on her way to work, and the government blames the Taliban.

By Seeta

Click here to read the full story.
A Word From Our Teachers

Louisa Ermelino is the author of three novels that celebrate the power of women. She is also Reviews Director at PW Magazine and Chief of Reporters at InStyle Magazine. She's worked at Time and People magazines and for the television show Top Cops.

This has been a sheer delight. I was anxious as to how I would be able to encourage and help these women with their writing but soon realized that the act of just making contact was already moving forward. Every message from them was so endearing and sincere and intelligent that I was completely bowled over. And they were so open to my comments and truly used them to improve the work.

Three weeks is not such a long time, I have realized, but giving the women two themes worked well. I asked them to work with one or both of two ideas: "Narrow Escapes" and "Taking Chances" which are very broad and could go anywhere and they took them up and ran! It was a fun way to start off.

As with any good teaching experience, I learned as much as I taught and will always feel a connection to these women and all women struggling to improve their lot...sisters all. Many thanks to everyone involved.

Connie May Fowler is the author of five acclaimed novels, as well as a memoirist and screenwriter. She performed The Vagina Monologues alongside Jane Fonda and Rosie Perez, raising over $100,000 for charities in 2003. Her lauded work has been translated into 15 languages.

Since beginning my work with the Afghan Women's Writing Project, I have struggled with various manifestations of disconnection.

As I read the emails, essays, and poems penned by these wonderful and brave women, news feeds from Afghanistan flash across my computer screen. The offensive in Helmand is the first step in what has become America's second Afghan war . . . A 24-year-old Illinois soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday fighting the war in Afghanistan . . . The line between life and death has become dangerously thin in Afghanistan's bloody war zone.

I get these feeds because I requested them; I had to search them out. Unless you have a loved one deployed there, the situation in Afghanistan is not a part of the American consciousness. It's not a Twitter trending topic. I rarely see the subject roll by in my Facebook live feed (but tons about Michael Jackson). Lately, TV pundits have been spending their time yukking it up over a quitter named Sarah Palin; they've reduced Afghanistan to a sidebar.

Then I read the women's words. And I am struck with the complexity of their lives, at how disconnected Americans are from the realities of our fellow humans on whose soil we wage-rightly or wrongly-war.

In their words, I spy a gentleness of spirit that I do not believe I would possess if I walked in their shoes. I spy courage and determination; hope and sadness; wisdom and fear; and perhaps most important, a wily insistence on maintaining-against huge odds-a relevant voice in their society. Americans, by and large, tend to think of Afghan women as victims who need to be saved by the West. When I read their words, I know that they are survivors whose circumstances must change and that they will be and must be the ones who define that change.

These are women who have lived through unspeakable trauma yet they-in ways great and small, in moments hidden and revealed-insist on soaring. Read their words and you will spy, as I do, a beautiful thing: ascension amid the rubble.

Contact AWWP:

For more information on the Afghan Women's Writing Project please contact:
The Afghan Women's Writing Project
Masha Hamilton, Project Founder
686 Sterling Place Brooklyn, New York 11216
Phone: 917.821.6119 / Email:

Masha's Website/Blog:
AWWP Blog:


Online Donations for Afghan Women Writers:

Many of our students and women writers, especially outside of Kabul, cannot get to an Internet cafe due to security considerations. A laptop at home and a jump drive would allow them to write their pieces, and then ask a male relative to send the work at an Internet cafe. A $20 donation will buy a flash drive and $500 in donations will buy a laptop for our women writers. No contribution is too small. Thank you for considering it.

Your credit card donation will be handled by Friends of Afghanistan's secure Paypal payment. Or you can mail a check made out to Friends of Afghanistan:

Terry Dougherty , 15021 Prairie Park Cv, Hoagland, IN 46745.
Write SOLA or Afghan Women Writers on the check.

We will send your tax deductible donation to the Peter M. Goodrich Foundation for the purpose you indicate.

To stay informed about the latest news, events, and other developments with the Afghan Women's Writing Project, please CLICK below and join our mailing list. We appreciate your support.
Join Our Mailing List
In This Issue
Narrow Escape
Hope Helps Me Move On
My Eyes - A Poem
From Idyllic Life to War
Mother's Day in Farah
Sponsors & Friends:

Please visit our sponsors as a way to thank them for their wonderful support:

Safe Unsubscribe
The Afghan Women's Writing Project | 686 Sterling Place | Brooklyn | NY | 11216

No comments: