The editor of The HyperTexts, Michael Burch, strives to enlighten, educate, and intrigue his readers. Content is a pleasing aggregate of fun, pathos, whimsy, dedicated formalism, humor, excellent poetry, and thought-provoking commentary. The recent addition of a commentary on the life and death of Afghani female poet Nadia Anjuman is a telling example of why The HyperTexts is so well-respected among poets and writers.
Often it seems that the brightest and most gifted die before their promise is fully realized. So it was with Nadia Anjuman Herawi, dead at age 25 under suspicious circumstances. Nadia was a published poet, and a young wife with a six-month-old child.
Friends and peers believe she was murdered by her husband, a faculty member at Herat University, because her desire to speak out through poetry shamed him. Her husband says she committed suicide by taking poison, but both he and his mother were arrested on suspicion of murder. Nadia had been beaten before her death. Despite his protestations of innocence, the fact remains that her husband did not take Nadia to the hospital until four hours after she was beaten and supposedly took poison. Her husband [or perhaps family members in collusion] refused an autopsy so the cause of death will never be known.
What sin shamed her family and caused her death? Nadia dared to be a female poet and loved reading literature and poetry that had been banned by the Taliban. She defied convention and refused to be silent. She was a member of the Sewing Circles of Herat, memorialized by award winning journalist Christina Lamb in a book by the same name.
Under the Taliban, Afghani women were forbidden to work, study, or even laugh out loud, but they were allowed to sew. Female writers went three times a week to the Golden Needle Sewing School to study forbidden writers and poets. This true purpose of the "Sewing Circle" is a crime in Afghanistan, punishable by death. Through her literary studies at the Sewing School, Nadia had one book published. Gul-e-dodi (Dark Red Flower) was embraced by poetry lovers throughout Afghanistan and Iran before the poet died.
Before it became a modern battleground, Afghanistan and particularly Herat were known for a rich literary and intellectual history. Ancient Persia was the cradle of poetic grace and artistic beauty. Nadia did not want such beauty to disappear. Her professor at the Sewing School, Nasir Rahiyab, has been quoted as saying, "A society without literature is a society that is not rich and does not have a strong core." American politicians who support war over literacy and art would do well to consider that statement. War transformed parts of Persia from a lush green treasure to a dead, brown wasteland.
Poets like Nadia Anjuman died to change that, and her voice has not been silenced. The only Anjuman lines to be found in the West [as of the time of this article] are these:
I am caged in this corner
full of melancholy and sorrow ...
my wings are closed and I cannot fly ...
I am an Afghan woman and so must wail.
If any person out there has a copy of Nadia Anjuman's book, or possesses
other examples of her poetry, Michael Burch would welcome an email at
Commentary by Laurel Johnson