Can I Talk?

two girls in redCan I talk?


Can I go to school?

Can I work outside?

Can be myself?

Can I ask why?
You are a girl.

The pain of being a girl comes down as tears on my cheeks. For centuries I have cried for being a girl. They taught me to be silent when I wanted to speak for myself. They taught me to stay in a dark room because I did not deserve the light. They did not let me be myself because I was created to be property. They closed doors that would let me escape and opened only the doors they wanted me to walk through. I cried, nobody heard me. I suffered, nobody cared. I felt lonely, I was too unworthy to be accompanied.

And when I said I want to have the same rights as you, they turned their backs, they hit me, raped me, cut my nose, and stoned me. There must be no independence or happiness for a woman. For centuries they have been happy to use me as a secondary sex. But they do not let me be happy. They do not want me to think that we could be the same.

My heart is full of words they said I’m not worthy to hear. My heart is as big as the universe and full of words I am not allowed to say. I remember the days I watched them going to school and all I could do was look through the window and cry without making a noise. I remember when I asked them to let me go to school too, but they slapped me and reminded me of the sour fact: I am a girl.

I cannot count how many times I have wished I was born somewhere else–or that Afghanistan were something else. I wish I could have the same as they have, just the same, nothing more. Just the same rights as they have. I keep this wish beside the bunch of wishes in the universe of my heart. It is the only thing they cannot grab for themselves.

By Fatima H.

Photo by Nick Dubaz


  1. oh fatima… my <3 goes out to you…. i hope you see change in afghanistan in your lifetime… i wish you to be surrounded by people who love and respect you and encourage you to fulfill all the dreams in your heart that is as large as the universe… know that your words have touched me and that i care…

    be well, my friend

  2. Dear Fatima jaan :

    My lovely lovely sister! First of all let me congratulate you because of the gift you have and that is your writings, It is wonderful.

    You know I think the same way as you do and with all the love, love, love I have for Afghanistan I wish that I was not born there too but you know it is not our poor countries fault and it is not our fault that we are women. Be proud we are strong and you know womanhood is something a gift but we didnt had the chance in our life to feel it.

    I liked the poem you wrote in this article and the way you wrote it was wonderful. I hope that your kind heart which is really like a universe will be full of hope and strength.

    I am waiting to read more of your writings so please write…

    much love


  3. liz titus says:

    Dearest Fatima,
    Your voice is loud and clear and strong! I hope you will continue to speak out, The world is listening to you and all the other writers in AWWP. It is a time in history where change must happen, and you will be part of the change.

    All the best,
    Liz Titus, AWWP mentor

  4. Augusta says:

    What a touching, well-written story! We are horrified in America that Afghan women and girls are subjected to such abuse and unhappiness. You are so brave for speaking out.

  5. “Can be myself?/No.” All of your questions and answers hurt to read, but I found this one to be terribly painful. I feel I’ve spent all of my life struggling to be myself, and to accept myself for who I am, and it hurts to imagine life where everyone close to me would withhold love and support (or even hurt me) if I didn’t adhere to their idea of what I’m supposed to “be.”

    And then, to read this: “And when I said I want to have the same rights as you, they turned their backs, they hit me, raped me, cut my nose, and stoned me. There must be no independence or happiness for a woman.”

    Oh, Fatima. Thank you for speaking this out loud.

    This piece is powerful, beautiful, and eloquent. I hope it will be widely read. Thank you for saying things as clearly and as passionately as you did. God bless the universe of your heart.


  6. Pat Collins says:

    Fatima you are one of the shining lights of your country. Your strength and your pain shows in your writing. Keep up the great work and know you are not alone.

  7. Madinah Noorai says:

    Fatima Qand that broke my heart…I am living an easy life in Southern California as an Afghan-American girl, and I wish I could trade places with you so you did not feel the pain that I read through this poem. Continue to be strong – they can never put out the fire in your strong heart.

  8. Michael Coleman says:

    Fatima, this was an excellent article. It speaks for more than the women in your society, but to all of those who feel like they are an underdog in a situation. I enjoyed how to didn’t state them as “men”, but instead you used the common title “they” stating that they should not be above you in any sense.

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