Feminist writings by Pakistan’s activist poet
While getting involved in the 16 Days of activism against gender violence, and trying to explain to people why “Take Back the Tech” is such an important initiative by APC’s Women’s Networking Suppoort Program, I discovered a website containing some very powerful verses written by Attiya Dawood who is a female activist poet. Some of the poetry is about violence in marriage, rape, against laws and traditions and beliefs that hold women back.
I remember being introduced for the first time to Attiya and her poetry by Zak and his wife Nuzhat who has been an active part of the War against Rape and Women’s Action Forum movements in Pakistan. Nuzhat has also been extremely vocal in her criticism of some past and current legislation in Pakistan.
Attiya’s poetry is really worth reading and has a poignancy to it that grabs at your heart strings. I am sharing one poem below. The rest can be read on her website.
Asif Aslam Farrukhi describes Attiya Dawood in these words, on Attiya’s website:
Bold, different, defiant, feminist… Attiya Dawood is the new and exciting voice in Sindhi poetry. A voice suggesting new choices, drawing out powerful relationships, hinting at elusive mysteries. Choose love, she writes in a poem addressed to her daughter, even if “they” condemn you to be a “kari”, the blackend woman. Do not let love turn into a collar around the neck of slave, she writes in another poem, but you should also eat the fruit of knowledge, then our love will be like flowers and fragrance. Do not talk to me just as you talk to your friends. I weigh heavy on shoulders of father, brother, husband, son… bathed in the name of religion, nailed to the coffin in the name of traditions, I am buried in the graveyard of ignorance. All my life I kept walking on the “Pul Sarat” respectability built by others. I have traveled across centuries to know myself. You cannot keep this voice locked up inside the “kot”, it will not be silenced. It announces firmly that “my hands reach out the door latch.
Slowly a trembling hand moves towards the heavily barricaded doors. This gesture does not come easily. In one of her poems, Attiya Dawood writes that beliefs were written “throttling my mind and dipped in my blood”, laws were framed “assuming my status as a sub-human” and society built on “the skuls of what were once my ambitions.
The Boundaries of Love
That you love me, there is no doubt.
You have promised to provide for me
My daily bread, clothes, a roof over my head.
You have pawned my life instead,
You have given me all the freedom which can be confined
Within the paradise of home,
But you have forbidden me
To go in the direction
Where the tree of thought
Bears the fruits of knowledge.
The sun comes up daily
Urging me to step forward.
I have tasted the fruit and I am unbound today,
I feel suffocated in your paradise.
I want the freedom to make my own decisions
The fruit of thought has given me the power,
Bread, clothes and home are not stars in the sky
Which only you can get
And I can never touch.
Traditions. Law and belief…..
Don’t make mountains out of them,
Holding the hands of my thoughts
I can cross these mountains too.
That you love, there is no doubt
But don’t turn this love into a slave-ring
To stifle me.
Yes, you also eat the fruit of knowledge
From the tree of thought.
Let our love be flowers and fragrance.
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