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A new lens

Author:
Kabul. Afghanistan. 2012
A meeting of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies’ Literary Society, in Kabul.  The group has roughly one hundred members in Kabul, where they meet openly on most Saturdays. The city of Kabul is, in many ways, a bubble. Its security allows women to gather openly, a near impossibility across most of the country. Outside Kabul, there are as many as three hundred members in the outlying provinces of Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Mazar, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Farah. Exact numbers of members are impossible to come by, since the society operates in secret by necessity.

By Kaylen Forsyth

For a poet language is land on the water, is water on the land. The poem becomes necessary to existence, a way of transforming the physical world into something that can’t die. Like with many other art forms, its greatest assets are its humanness and intimacy. “I composed my first poems in the dark“, says Philip Levine in My Lost Poets. This is a small window into the understanding that happens between a writer and the words they either chose or don’t.

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can”, laments Jack Gilbert, as though deprived of self-expression his entire life.

This brings him to a shared affinity with so many women across the globe, today and always, who may be able to fathom even more thoroughly than him exactly what it’s like to be stifled. To have so much pent-up rage and passion that there is no way to coordinate any coherence. This is why poetry plays such a vital role in the lives of many women in Afghanistan.

Recently, it has become clearer than ever just how essential it is for women to have a platform that cannot be deterred by men. Such deterrence is now symptomatic of a growing rather than declining patriarchy. This struggle for a stage is a problem that the women of Afghanistan have faced so much they’ve now formed their own kind of barracks, built out of language. Amidst a country that has seen vast amounts of violence and duplicity, a number of incredibly courageous women are voicing their political and emotional concern through the power of poetry. It takes the form of a “landay”.

The simple structure of the “landay poem” features couplets with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second. This frame is used by many Afghan women who constantly search for new ways to articulate in a society wishing for their silence. Women write and share their poetry any way possible. Sometimes they share via phone calls with other women who are unable to leave their homes. Or other times, they meet up secretly to discuss their creations and merge them. Distribution always takes precedence over attribution.

Western representation of Afghan women would like to ignore this. Instead, it attempts a powerless portrayal. There is such an ethnocentric trend in Western media. It wants us to view other cultures as inherently alien in their differences. This leads to mass polarisation. Some begin to view those who live differently as outlandish. Evidently, this eliminates empathy and the ability to see with human perspective. It is the cause of an inaccurate depiction of Afghan women.

Journalists, specifically the tabloid sensationalists, would love us to view these women as voiceless victims, completely unable to have an opinion that hasn’t been indoctrinated by a patriarch. It’s inaccurate, and reading their “landays” emphasise this massively. Most suggest raw and often bursting passions of lust and love. There are hints of fury over the Taliban and the U.S., and foreign occupation.

My lover is fair as an American soldier can be. / To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
Landay lines like these cut deep and reveal strength, the strength that we all must see. Too prevalently, there is a manipulated view of Muslim women as direct results of oppression. Obviously, the consequence of this is their immediate dehumanisation. They are then seen through a lens that fails to attribute any agency or depth. Even their initiative is brushed aside.

Since the recent inauguration of Trump, women across the globe have risen up in a unified voice against his despicable policies. It’s fantastic! It’s inspiring to see that his government’s blatant misogyny and bigotry is not going unchallenged. People can address the politics of the women marching in the US and Europe, their agency, their intelligence. Yet, there still remains a struggle to identify these qualities in women from Islamic countries. Their acts of revolution and activism are either ignored, dismissed or played down. It’s easy to look at a middle-class American woman and call her a political revolutionary but people don’t want to call an Afghan woman anything of the sort.

In the West there is an erroneous thought that women from Islamic backgrounds are in need of salvation. This has been helpful to politicians in the past, allowing them to justify certain invasions. But to look at these “landays” is to understand that perhaps, these Afghanistan poets are the revolutionaries we should be taking examples from, rather than forcing our examples onto them.

One week after the Women’s March: what now?

Author:
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It’s been 1 week since the Women’s March where millions of people stood against Trump, and perhaps more importantly stood in solidarity with each other against what Trump stands for. One week on, we reflect on some of our experiences of the march, and some of our hopes for the future…
Awakening to the news that the women’s march was the largest protest in U.S history made me speechless. Awakening to the news that an estimated 2.9 million marched in the country surprised me. As someone who avoided the inauguration because I believe that this country was in a hopeless state, I found myself in an unexpected state of optimism. Seeing so many committed to women’s rights was uplifting. Moving forward, I hope that women of all identities will not only continue to fight for the rights of women, but also fight women from minority races, the LGBTQ community, the Muslim community, and more. I hope that a stronger and larger coalition of women forms in years to come. I hope that more female politicians specifically those in the white house and females in positions of power push an agenda that protects the rights of women in collaboration with the millions of citizens who want the rights of women protected.

– Maram Elnagheeb

Last week I marched in a loving community of 500,000 people, which now seems like a drop in the bucket of over 4 million people worldwide. We marched not just in opposition to the inauguration of a President, but in protest of the unequal treatment of women worldwide who are standing up to say, “We have had enough.” It was one of the single greatest moments of my life because for the first time I know I’m not alone. There are millions of women and we are fighting together regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status,and physical or mental ability status. When you cut one of us, we all bleed and we are refusing to bleed anymore. We sent a clear message to political leaders across the world, we are here, we are loud, we are energized and we will not go away. The war on women has gone on for far too long, we are prepared to stand up until we are all equal. Stand up and rise we will.

– Christiana Paradis, Washington DC march

The Women’s March was the biggest I’ve been on in my life, and I’ve been on a lot of marches. From the sheer scale of things it’s obvious that Trump’s presidency has really upset and terrified a lot of people, even over here in the UK. I think it’s important that we don’t stop with the march – that we continue to show solidarity with women and oppressed groups worldwide, now and in the future. Marching is great – but what now? It’s important we take action to support others, and keep resisting.

– Yas Necati, London March

Let’s keep standing with Standing Rock

Author:
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By Stephanie Wang

Undoubtedly, a Trump presidency threatens the legacy of President Obama by reverting the policy moves he’s made the past eight years.  His decision to build the Dakota Access Pipeline is devastating, and as an environmentalist and an activist, I cannot reconcile the idea of building the pipeline when it will only set forth a precedent of placing money above lives, culture, and the environment.

Building the Dakota Access Pipeline will have terribly negative impacts on the Sioux population living in the region, posing both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians. The Dakota Access Pipeline will destroy sacred sites that have existed for hundreds of years and destroy ancient burial grounds, which is a direct violation of federal law. In addition, the pipeline could potentially contaminate the water supply of the Sioux Indians – an oil spill at the Missouri River would befall an economic and cultural catastrophe upon the Sioux population, permanently contaminating the Missouri River, a major water source for those living in the area. Without question, the Dakota Access Pipeline poses both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians and completing the pipeline will signify that oil and the energy is more important than human lives– what will be the cost of such “progress” that the Trump administration is determined to greenlight?

Naturally, the construction of the pipeline has been extremely contentious, with thousands protesting near the Standing Rock area. These protests have lead to hundreds of arrests and the use of force and other violent tactics to disperse the protesters. On largely peaceful protests, police have used attack dogs, water cannons in freezing temperatures, and explosive teargas grenades, injuring hundreds. Freedom of assembly is a basic right in the United States, and yet, it’s something that’s being infringed upon in Standing Rock.

The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the decision to build the pipeline, “a purely political action” but when there are humans lives at risk, it cannot be purely political. When we are reduced to simply making decisions for the bottom line, at what cost will it come at? How many lives will be sacrificed and how can we possibly justify it? Once the Dakota Access Pipeline is built, what will stop the Trump administration from building more, disrupting and endangering more communities? What will stop the Trump administration from entirely disregarding our civil rights in the name of economic “progress”? That’s why we can’t stop protesting against the pipeline being built.
Now, more than ever, we need to show our support and solidarity for the Sioux Indians and the protesters in Standing Rock. It can be as simple as reblogging, sharing, or retweeting an article on #NoDAPL, signing a petition, or attending a #NoDAPL protest in your city. You can also get involved by writing to government officials and oil companies urging them to reverse the decision or by donating money to the Standing Rock Sioux for legal, sanitary, and emergency purposes. Every action counts and every action will help ensure that the Obama administration’s actions and the protests of the Sioux people to stop the building of the pipeline were not in vain.

For more ways to get involved, check this link out.

Today we march

Author:
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By Isla Whateley

Content note: Donald Trump, mentions of sexual assault, rape, incest and abortion

Today, women from all over the world will unite in a march of solidarity, in order to prove just how important women’s rights are and to prove to the new Trump administration that they cannot ignore us. The main march is in Washington DC, but many other cities across the world are hosting their own marches on US embassies and consulates. You can find a march near you here!

The Trump administration looms upon us after his inauguration yesterday as President of the United States of America, also known as the most powerful person on Earth. He is known for his racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic views and many have been dreading this day since his election in November, including myself and everyone else I know.

As a young woman living in Scotland, you might ask why I’m so worried about Donald Trump. I don’t live in America and I won’t be directly affected by his Presidency. But the USA is the UK’s closest ally, and with the rise of nationalism in both nations (shout out to Brexit), we are likely to be affected more than we realise. Not to mention that the USA is the most powerful and influential country in the world.

Trump’s record on women’s rights is dire. Like many Republicans he is pro-life – or as I prefer to call it, anti-choice – with regards to abortion. He wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. He hates the idea that Planned Parenthood is government-funded, and basically wants women to lose the majority of our reproductive rights. He has repeatedly objectified women publically and on camera, and has been taken to court for rape and sexual assault before. Many of his cabinet members share these kinds of sexist and outdated views, which is why this march is so important.

The Women’s March this weekend signifies a sort of peaceful solidarity, uniting against fascism and conservative views that hinder women’s lives. It may be the calm before the storm, but maybe we just need to fight harder for our rights in the wake of the storm.

I won’t be Jumping on the Brand-Wagon

Author:
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By Cora Morris

“It is an incredible time to be alive.”:

A phrase that seems to flash across my brain all the more frequently at the moment, in quiet moments of humbled acknowledgement. Indeed I see it elsewhere too. It’s chucked around incessantly at rocket launch after rocket launch, called out when another medical breakthrough hits the headlines. With each and every flashy new gadget, we are reminded of the wonders of human achievement, and it is brilliant. I am as glad of these things as the next person, they delight me. But, in all truthfulness? (more…)

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