for my sisters who stay long after their hearts are broken

One day you will learn that their lies can’t hold you hostage anymore

One day you will be so fed up with empty promises

 

And when he promises you a sandcastle

you will know the wind can sweep it away

 

you will sit there with empty hands and a dull pain in your womb

 

you will look in a mirror and recognize a spark of hope

 

look deep into your eyes and dig out the little girl you were

 

before he came into your life

 

and buried you so deep in self-doubt and pain that you forgot how to laugh without sighing at the end.

 

I believe in your resilience. You put a phoenix to shame.

 

One day you will burn with a fire so deep. And you will blow their lies away.

 

Like a sandcastle in the wind.

 

 

for my sisters who stay long after their hearts are broken

Madinah Wardak Noorai

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No Honor in Killing: The Murder of Qandeel Baloch

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The “honour” killing of Qandeel Baloch is weighing so extremely heavy on my heart.

Qandeel was a Pakistani social media star, first gaining fame on Pakistan Idol and then going on to becoming a feminist and activist, as well as posting racy and unorthodox pictures and messages on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

In an extremely conservative culture, Qandeel made it her prerogative to live out loud, unapologetically.

Being born a woman in my culture is a punishment, we’re told to laugh quietly. To walk quietly. We’re told to refrain from dancing too much because we’re not supposed to appear happy.

In my culture, it is easy to become a female revolutionary. Simply making an independent decision or showing your shoulders makes you a radical feminist.

This varies from family to family, and I’ve been blessed to come from a liberal Afghan background. But Qandeel’s death reminds me that in my culture, a woman cannot even breathe too loud without someone sending her a death threat.

We come into this world as naked infants and right away we’re boxed in by labels. From such a young age we’re indoctrinated to see our bodies and our minds as haram, as things that need to be softer, almost invisible.

Qandeel was murdered by her own brother because she refused to be invisible.

Imagine how mind-f*cked her brother must have been to be able to place his hands over her nose and mouth and watch her asphyxiate. That he grew up alongside her, shared a womb with her. That he had memories with her as a child and that they loved the same mother and father….and still, this notion of misogyny and patriarchy is so strong in my culture that all those things meant nothing to him – and he killed her. Blood is supposed to be the strongest bond, but the mistreatment of women in Middle Eastern countries is proof that hyper-masculinity is what runs the world.

In the business world, we’re constantly told to push boundaries, take risks. When the means to an end is money and power, it’s ok to step out of the line and put yourself out there.

But not when you’re a woman and not when you’re business is your mind.

I am Qandeel. My powerful, outspoken female Muslim friends are Qandeel. We wake up everyday and decide that our minds are worth sharing. Our thoughts are worthy of being spread. That our bodies are ours to run and that we can take ownership for how we conduct our lives.

This is weighing so heavy on me because I myself so many times have been told to stop being myself. That as an Afghan woman and a Muslim woman, I must earn those titles by behaving a certain way. That it is impossible for me to taken ownership of my body and simultaneously call myself a Muslim or an Afghan. That even this blog is blasphemy, so much so that there have been times I wanted to rid of it altogether.

But society says no. Men says no. They take it upon themselves to tell us what to do and how to move.

Masculinity is so fragile that a woman’s sexual agency is the most-feared thing on the planet.

Right now, I feel like being born a woman in my culture is a punishment. I won’t defend these hyper-masculine Middle Eastern men. I can’t explain away my culture and try and sugar-coat the abuse of women in Muslim and Middle Eastern households. I can’t be complicit in this internalized notion of misogyny.

Qandeel is dead, but empowerment is not. The only way to bring about any “honor” is to avenge her death by living radically, and that is easy to do when you are a Muslim woman with half a brain.

“She was the most self-exposed person, and what was different about her is that she was from a poor background. She did all this on her own. She is much more than Kim Kardashian, she went against the norms of society – and went on do what she wanted, on her own terms.”

-Fasi Zaka

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Tavern of Ruin: A Journey through Space & Time with Afghan Musician Qais Essar

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I love being able to take a trip through La-La Land without even leaving my room.

That’s what listening to Qais Essar’s newest album Tavern of Ruin felt like. A journey throughout space and time that felt nostalgic but also fresh. Parts of it felt bittersweet, moving me close to tears, (specifically the second track titled Flame Eterne) while others felt like dawn…that part of the day when the sunlight barely breaks through over the horizon and everything is soft. At some points I felt like I could be in Woodstock while others felt authentically Afghan – sounds that my ancestors made. If you’ve ever listened to Devendra Banhart, then listening to Tavern of Ruin will be very enjoyable.

That’s what I think is my favorite thing about Tavern of Ruin. Qais has mastered bringing Western and Eastern vibes together. But while it has a modern and contemporary feel, the rubab reminds me that I am listening to the magic of someone who is from home. The album is centered on Qais’ amazing talent of playing Afghanistan’s traditional instrument, but the insertion of Western music is an ode to Qais’ duality. Being Afghan-American has allowed Qais to bridge the gap between his worlds, making this album truly enjoyable for anyone.

I can imagine listening to this while meditating, driving down Pacific Coast Highway, or even plugging in my ear phones and letting it lullaby me to sleep….

Check out and purchase the album to experience the psychedelic journey I’m just coming off of at: bandcampiTunes, and Amazon, and check out the video for his track, Thaw.

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Dark Halls 

Before I break you

Before I hurt you

I need you to know how many
Dark halls I have been through

I need you to know how many spaces I crawled through
To get here today 

I need you to know I am barely breathing 

And any step from here on is one more than I thought it’d ever be 

So if I hurt you 

I need you to know 

I have already inherited your pain 
Just the pain of knowing me 
I am sorry
Artist: Zaheera

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For Aliem

For my dearest friend, Aliem

Your black body

Your black skin

Your black hands

 

I loved you in all your black glory

Since I was young and innocent

 

Life has changed for us since we were carefree

 

My ancestors and yours cry for our generations

 

Who duck and hide from the ones who vowed to protect them

 

Who adorn their bodies with war-paint every morning

 

Every time I see a black woman crying on TV

My instinct is to tell you I love you

 

This is because

Our friendship thrives on the pain of our people

 

I wish we had more to speak about

than another black body hitting the floor.

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I do not want daughters 

I do not want daughters.

My heart breaks when I stare deeply into the eyes of my baby niece. I imagine her brightness dulled and innocence stolen

By the hearts of men who are empty and cold

By systems that are ruthless and evil

By standards she won’t ever meet

God please do not give me daughters.

I can’t bear witness to my child’s tears when she feels she is not enough for them
When she feels stupid for her decisions

When she compares herself to the other broken girls competing for a man

My heart is already broken for the daughters we have not bore yet.

Their tired minds and their scarred wombs.

I do not want daughters.

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Loving Afghanistan

Loving Afghanistan is different than loving somewhere else.

We love a place that’s in shambles but was once buzzing with potential.

So we love memories but we also love Afghanistan for what it is now.

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I love you because you were once so ready to be your best self – but I love you now through the pain and destruction. I love you because I’ve never seen you but my heart knows. And I love you because I can’t be with you now but I promise I will one day.

I love you because you make my life complicated, but you also bring me clarity. I love you because you tell me stories that no mind could make up. I love you because Alexander loved you, Genghis Khan loved you, Akbar loved you….. Royalty chose to live and die in your dirt. I love you even when you confuse me… even when you hurt me.

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Your name is on the news everyday and most people don’t understand. They don’t understand how we can love a place that’s seen so much pain, so much blood. They believe you’re nothing but dirt and angry men; but I know you. I know you’re so much more.

I wish I could hold you in my arms and coo you to sleep. I wish I could keep you away from all the evil hearts that want to ruin you.

My heart is longing and this life is fleeting but when I dream of you it feels like forever.

I believe this is the collective love that will save you and I hope I’m alive to see you free.

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Happy Birthday

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It Is Time to Create A Safe Space for Afghan LGBTQ

Awkward moment when Afghans say they’re down with the LGBTQ community. Y’all werent last week. Now listen, I am NOT trying to knock anybody’s solidarity or their intentions. I actually know of a LOT of Afghans who INDIVIDUALLY and PRIVATELY support the LGBTQ community and are for same-sex marriage. Not super gung-ho supporting it, but in a “Ba Ma Chi?” (what is it to me?) fashion. But collectively coming together to make statements of solidarity like we are now? Outwardly telling our stories of gay solidarity? We realllllly rushing now to publish those statements aren’t we? Well we have a big problem and its been hiding in the closet for a long ass time. And that silence turns into violence. It’s time we recognize and love queer Afghans.

The evidence is now coming out that Omar Mateen may have been gay. This adds even more layers of nuances on top of his already speculated support of ISIS. But let’s just say, for the purposes of the message I’m trying to convey to my peoples, that he did this only because he was gay. Because he was gay, and in self-denial, and in so much pain and despair, knowing that he would be never accepted in our Afghan American community. That it may go as far as ex-communication. He woke up every morning knowing he could not live out his truth. He married two times and even had a son, while secretly going on Grindr and frequenting gay bars. He went as far as to ask another man out, and even then, was rejected. All while being from an extremely homophobic and patriarchal culture.

Our community has not yet created a safe space for queer Afghan folk. We’re all in solidarity and we’re all allies now – but before that we’ve been ignoring the excommunicated queer Afghan youth. The time is now. We have lowdown Afghan guys who partake in raqasa-watching or the disgusting practice of bacha-bazee and we call them “coonies“, but even these men are somehow given a pass. But nothing that is a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ Afghans who are only seeking to live their truth. If this Afghan dude was so distraught over his sexuality that he felt the need to go to a damn club and kill a bunch of people that he may be lowkey jealous of because they had the freedom to live their truths – we have a big problem. If Mateen felt isolated enough to the point of this type of psychopathy? Now I’m not saying that every homosexual Afghan will go on a shooting rampage for being rejected by our community, but once is more than enough y’all.

I am sick of seeing quotes from the Qur’an condemning homosexuals. I am sick of hearing Afghan guys playfully call each other “coonies”. I am sick of knowing LGBTQ Afghans who do not show up to family events because they know no one will greet them. It is time to love people regardless of who they are.

I am checking myself here too. I have been a lifetime supporter of the LGBTQ community, from having gay BFF’s in high school to serving as president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at LAVC for one semester. But that is not enough. I purposefully had silenced my support of this community when I began to socialize more heavily with Afghans and Muslims. Not because I was ashamed, but because I did not want to deal with the potential backlash. I recognized my community is pretty homophobic and just decided I did not want to even engage in that conversation with a group that was not “ready” to talk about homophobia.

If there ever was a time, it is now. Queer Afghans are Afghan. The same way you and me fear for our lives outside of our home because of how we look, they fear for their lives inside and outside the home because of their orientation. And then on TOP of that, they fear for their lives because of their ancestry. Theirs oppression is nuanced, and hetero Afghans are privileged for avoiding this layered oppression.

Now I’m not saying if are 100% against homosexuality, for you to wake up and become an ally. But do we really have to go out of our way to make people feel bad? If your supposed religious beliefs lead you to believe all homosexuals are an abomination….do you have to shove it down everyone else’s throats?

I am extremely happy to see this conversation beginning in our community. It is time to unpack the hyper-masculinity in our culture, it is time to address the violence. It is time to make sure we are making each other feel safe instead of left out. We can’t ever afford to shut someone out again.

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Orlando Shooting

I woke up this morning to the news that an Afghan-American man committed the largest mass shooting on U.S. soil against the LGBTQ community of Florida. My heart broke imagining that innocent people believed they were having a fun Saturday night in a safe space that is inclusive of their community. Gay clubs serve as places where the LGBTQ can be themselves without judgement.

This happened both during Ramadan, a time when Muslims aim to become better humans, and during Pride, a time when the LGBTQ community can unapologetically be themselves and spread awareness about their community. Both the LGBTQ and Muslim communities suffer hate crimes all the time. This event will divide us, but it is up to all of us as human beings to make sure we stand in solidarity.

Growing up, I was extremely fond of the LGBTQ. My best friends in high school were gay men. I served as president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Los Angeles Valley College for one semester, and then stepped down, realizing I was not qualified for the role, because I was completely in the dark about the multitude of social injustices the LGBTQ face. I am so distraught that a member of my Afghan-American community could do this to a people that are already treated like crap in every sector of society. I also have family members who are homosexual and my heart breaks that they believe they won’t be accepted by our community.

I am simultaneously afraid of how my community will be perceived when they are already seen as savage terrorists. When we are already stopped and frisked at the airport, when we already hesitate to say what our nationality and religion is.

It makes me sad that both the LGBTQ and the Muslim communities can never wake up, go outside, and unapologetically be themselves, and be accepted with open arms.

It’s even worse, that now a member of one group made it his prerogative to go and oppress the other.

When instead, both groups should be in solidarity with one another, to fight the common political and social structures in place that strip them of their civil liberties every freaking day.

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