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[16 Days of Activism] Legitimizing Inequality


          I write this poem for women who are victims of wrong cultural and religious beliefs. —Mahnaz

          We were cooked.
          They made us raw,
          burned us and buried us. Those
          men and women who carry the
          stick in their hands,
          gaze of blame in their eyes,
          sting of insult from their tongues, they
          set fire to our wisdom, then
          called us ignorant!
          Siasar !
          Naqisul Aql !
          They use our love for others as an
          excuse to tell us we are
          weak in faith, too emotional for
          a prophet, imam, judge, or leader. They
          betray us by twisting our nature to use against us,
          then call us Najis. Nasty. Unclean.
          They make a hammer from religion,
          pound us in the head,
          fool us with hell. We question
          injustice and they tell us we
          breach the quality of life so we are
          infidel. We ask for equality and they
          call us impious, deviant.

          They use our body, then
          mock our beauty and call us weak.
          They use our fairness to sell our soul, to
          crush our dignity. They are individual
          men and women who hold
          tight to their ways by telling us we are
          unequal. This is how they enforce
          wrong cultural beliefs.

          They are wrong.
          We are not infidel.
          We are different but equal.
          We are women
          Strong in our faith and ability.


          Siasar: Black head. Men say this to undermine women, to make them an object of pity.

          Naqisul Aql: It means someone who has incomplete wisdom. An Arabic word used mostly for women.

          Najis: Ritually impure or unclean. For example, blood and urine are najis.


          This post was written by Mahnaz and originally appeared on the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Republished with permission.

          The Afghan Women’s Writing Project was founded in 2009 in defense of the human right to voice one’s story. Poems & essays by Afghan women are published online at


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