Human Rights Day

This poem was written at an AWWP writing workshop in Kabul for International Human Rights Day on Monday, December 10, 2012. The writers wondered what it would be like if they woke up on Monday and it really was a day for all to share in human rights.

I wake early this morning, make a black tea, eat corn cake
for breakfast. On my table, the calendar open. Today
is the 10th of December, such a special day. I think deeply—
celebrate Human Rights, here and everywhere.
How delicious this cake. A beautiful morning, I say.

I am an Afghan girl.
How sweet the taste of this word, freedom.

The sky is a new color, bright for spring.
I will reach that sky, fly, be the messenger, spread the word
of the Afghan girl. I will see this day, a bird of peace soaring
in equality. The promise of it is so sweetly blue. Sweet like pie.

I go outside, hear the sound of the wind, feel its song, sung for me—
the best tomorrow is on its way. I will celebrate, such great meaning for us.
I will be part of a society in which I belong—belong will be a common word
for every woman and girl.

Human Rights Day. I celebrate.

But in the distance, I hear the voice of the suicide bomb.
It saddens me. I cannot celebrate now, cannot taste sweetness
until no people suffer, no warlord attacks, no terrorist kills.

I must share all women’s pain in the world, with the world.

When humans know the worth of it, life will taste as sweet as happiness.
When humans know not the worth of it, life tastes bitter as sorrow.

Meaningless words—freedom, equality, rights not practiced.
Laws forbid it. Violence repeats.
We say these words: Equal rights for men and women.
They are not here—our hands so empty without love for ourselves.

I work and wait. The sun will shine; the sky will be clean and lovely.
No one will cry about anything.
I will feel proud because I am free.

I am a girl, an Afghan girl.

By the Kabul Writers


  1. Elisabeth Lehr says:

    Thank you Kabul writing workshop for sharing you voices on this important day.

    Peace to us all


  2. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Whew! This takes the wind out of my sails! If this is too “American” a phrase, it means I am knocked out, blown away, by the sheer beauty and power of your words!
    Thank you all!

  3. Brava, ladies. This was such a visionary poem. I can’t help but feel that if we all read this poem to ourselves, and out loud, each and every day, we would bring the beauty of these words to life!

  4. Pat Collins says:

    There are not enough suicide bombers to kill every womans dreams anywhere. We forget we are Powerful, we are equal and we can make a difference. Starting with our sons. Raising them to respect, protect and become men, not ignorant followers of some one else’s desires and beliefs.

  5. Kamilah says:

    It was such a wonderful day with wonderful Afghan ladies. I saw hopes in each lady’s eyes and power in their voice. I know it is difficult in Afghanistan to talk about human rights but we will get our rights. As a girl, everyday, I should fight for my right… We have a proverb in Persian which says “After a long dark night, we will have a bright day”.



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