the woman who burns

I always burned. From the bottoms of my feet

To the hair on my head, I burned.

Whether it was love or pleasure or pain or joy that drove me insane.

I burned with it.
People who are shells
Cannot handle the woman that burns

When your heart is an ember

It will melt the man who is hollow.

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small spaces

The small spaces in between my ribs Are where I keep the lies you told me

Every breath I take 

The lies expand and collapse

Because I believed you,

I kept them near my heart 

And thought I’d unpack them 

Every time our love was supposed to grow 

But now they sustain me 

Because I know 

I could take your lies 

And your deceit 

And I could use them to fuel the fire

That burns so deep

I have no choice but to change.

My body sheltered your fraud 
I gave it to you every night

But now those lies are mine.

I feel strong
Because I know I can go on

Even when my body

Was a house for your lies. 

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Election 2016


I remember when they said this man became president, I fell to my knees in the back of the Zara stock room (where I worked) and cried tears of joy. My first time voting as an adult was for our first African American president.

Now I am extremely apathetic and indifferent to it all. It doesn’t matter what face is on the commander in chief, Bc people who look like me and speak my language will still get killed everyday at the hands of this government. I am extremely distraught and internally torn when it comes to whether or not our votes mean anything. Whether a candidate will do anything for my people here and my counterparts back home. 
I am only voting tomorrow Bc my mom is making me drive her to our polling place. I can’t help but admire her for believing in the political process, after fleeing her country, after living life as a refugee, after living in a nation that is complicit in the destruction of her motherland. How she can be optimistic and believe in the power of the people is an ideal that I currently do not possess. 
Whatever the outcome, I pray for our citizenry to remain safe. I pray that my fellow Muslims do not have to walk in fear. That immigrants can still call America a beacon of hope. That diversity is celebrated and compassion is multiplied. 
God bless America, and the places it bombs. 

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Day of the Girl 


Women

I am constantly in awe of the power of women

When a sister suffers, the whole community of women

Come together 

Care for this sister

Like she is their own 

Hold her as she cries and wipes her tears away

All of the wombs of many women ache for this sister 

They see themselves in her eyes

Women

If I didn’t have the sisters in my life,

The many sisters from every desert, every mountain, my sisters from the east and my sisters from the west.

How easily I would crumble.

Thank you for being my legs 

When I could not walk any further. 

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Sit in your pain


I sit in the pain.

I don’t make crowns of plastic flowers.

I don’t cover up the void in my chest and quell the dull ache in my womb.

I sit in it. 

I learned long ago that there is no rushing healing. 

And that denying yourself the walks through dark halls and the sleepless nights, or even the times when you don’t get out of bed – I know that denying that is more destructive than faking a smile.

So I sit in my pain.

I burn in my pain.

I make a home in my hell.

Because diamonds are only made after a process of pressure. 

And phoenixes only exist if there are ashes. 

Stop denying yourself the mastery of your pain. 

Live it. Own it. And pack it away in your chest.

To remind you of your resilience;

Forever. 

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Pakistan’s Plan To Forcibly Expel Afghans

I cannot imagine the repercussions of this. The irony? The infant nation they are being kicked out from has historically been indigenous Afghan land.

Prayers with the victims of this atrocious policy.

 

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Losing Jamshid

For those of us who are from Afghanistan, we know loving Afghanistan is different than loving someplace else. I never thought I could hate it though. I know how strong of a word hate is, but there have been two times that I hated it. When Farkhunda was murdered, and when Jamshid Zafar was killed in last weeks terrorist attack at the American University of Kabul.

Jamshid came into my sisters home already with a smile on. I still remember meeting him in her hallway, blushing and speaking in between stutters. Jamshid must have been nervous, but outside of the initial superficial hello’s and how are you’s, I knew right then how easy he could be loved, and how eager he was to love in return.

I was always so impressed by how much he loved Afghanistan. Born in the early 90’s, he grew up in an environment that I was saved from. His stories were supposed to be my stories as well, but my parents fled, and his parents stayed.

I think that’s what impressed me the most. That despite growing up in war, Jamshid believed in Afghanistan’s potential. In my case, I grew up miles away, safe in my home – it was easy for me to believe. But Jamshid came to age in the eye of the storm, during the Taliban, and during the American invasion. And he still believed.

He worked tirelessly to perfect his already fluent English. He greeted every family member of mine with kindness and open-arms. He played with my sisters children like they were his own siblings back home. He followed me around and asked me about pop-culture like an eager little brother. And he always ended every sentence with a smile.

And now he’s gone. Another victim of Afghanistan. Another name in a list. Another bruise on the heart of Afghanistan. Just sitting at school, wanting to learn. Wanting to help in the fight to save our nation.

Our nation. Right now I don’t even want to claim Afghanistan as my own. My heart feels tired. My heart feels helpless. How long can we love a place that burns in rage? How long are we supposed to persevere, and fight through it? Jamshid was my hope for Afghanistan, and now he’s gone.

I am so disappointed. My heart is broken into pieces. I wish I could hug Jammy one more time. I wish I kept in touch with him more. I miss the boy who was my little brother, who painted my room and came with me to In-N-Out, who played with my nephews and spoke politics with my parents, who loved my sister like she was his own mother.

I’m tired and I want to rest, but because Jamshid believed in a free Afghanistan, I can’t let his death be in vain. Those of us who lost him knew how much he believed. We have to believe too, for his sake. We have to believe that every Afghan in our motherland has the right to self-determine. That children have the right to wake up to birds and not bombs. That every mother who births an Afghan does not do so just to bury them after. We will create a free Afghanistan. Insurgents and terrorists are cowards and will receive their punishment for selfishly taking away our children. But Jamshid believed in a free Afghanistan. Jamshid loved Afghanistan from the bottom of his heart and with the fire from his soul. Because we love Jamshid, we will continue the fight with him in spirit. Jamshid fought his whole life, he fought more diligently than 12,000 soldiers. With pride and with him in mind, body, and soul, we will continue where he left off, and he will remain in our hearts until we meet him again.

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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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