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Voices from Inside Afghanistan

Posted on August 18, 2021

Afghan refugees in Iran.
Three young men, Afghan refugees in Iran. By EU/ECHO Pierre Prakash, 2013. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What Anders Widmark wrote in an introduction to Afghan writing ten years ago remains, unfortunately, true:

Much of what is said and written about Afghanistan in the West today is still tainted by an outside perspective on the situation—a narrative that keeps repeating and reformulating earlier misconceptions and generalizations.

For this reason, we're hoping to help educators bring the frightening situation now unfolding in Afghanistan into context for students, with connections to Afghan voices and carefully curated media resources.

    Afghan Lives in Stories and Poems 
Afghan poet Zahra Hosseinzadeh, whose biography notes that she became a refugee before she could speak.
    • Galileo: A funny and poignant story about a lonely Afghan father, a photogenic python, and social media addiction. The story is set in Iran, where many Afghans fled after the first Taliban takeover. Written by Aliyeh Ataei, translated by Salar Abdoh, and published here on WWB Campus, along with resources and teaching ideas.

    • Take a Number on Saturdays, a poem about the pressures and hopes of daily life by Zahra Hosseinzadeh, translated from Dari by Zuzanna Olszewska, and available bilingually.

    • The Sewing Machine, a poem that narrates family history through objects, and can be taught alongside literature ranging from Forugh Farrokhzad's  I Pity the Garden (trans. by Sholeh Wolpé) to Na’am al-Baz's Mrs. Saniya's Holiday (trans. by Alexa Firat)  to William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow. By Aman Mirzai, translated from Dari by Zuzanna Olszewska, and also available bilingually.

    For more Afghan voices, see Writing from Afghanistan, a 2011 issue of the magazine Words Without Borders, which also includes Anders Widmark's stirring introduction to the "immediacy and responsiveness" of modern Afghan literature.

   Afghanistan Today 

The suggested links below are courtesy of our friends at Re-Imagining Migration: 

  • "The Fall of Afghanistan," New York Times, The Daily Podcast
  • Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winning refugee from Pakistan, urges countries to welcome refugees from the Taliban, CBS News
  • What the recent news is like for an Afghans outside the country: ‘My family is stuck and there is nothing I can do,' from the BBC.
   Afghan Lives in Recent Years
Afghanistan Women's Soccer vs ISAF.
A player on Afghanistan's national women's soccer team; the Taliban now plans to ban women's sports. Image by ResoluteSupportMedia, NATO, 2010. License: CC BY 2.0