Inside Burqa

cooped up in van

Burqa kept me in the dark
Burqa kept me in prison
And behind a man-made window
It stopped me from watching the sun
And it hid my pouts and smiles
It made me fear what I want to see
Burqa is a man-made window
A fence between me and my dreams
But I know how to use burqa

Burqa is a grin that I should keep private
A sign of respect the women deserve
It hides my beauty from those who eye me
Burqa is a strong woman’s weapon
I use its small openings to glimpse vast realities
And employ its injustice in my struggle for justice
I show it to those who force me to wear it
And use it to test my patience for injustice

I am the same,
with or without burqa.

By Asma

Photo: J. McDowell


  1. Dear Asma:

    I loved your poem. I loved the way you wrote it and I admire your thoughts and the way you speak.
    The way your poem ends is heartbreaking and it ends with a reality, strength and bravery in Afghan women’s life story. I hope that one day we get rid of wearing burqa and we dont wear this monster any more! Keep writing.

  2. I so enjoy this piece, Asma. It is emotive, but it also illuminates the possible positive side of a burqa. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Fantastic. That man-made window doesn’t change the you inside. Beautiful poem, Asma. Beautiful you! Stacy

  4. Mary Lannon says:

    I really admire this deceptively simple poem. It really delves into ideas about oppression and resistance to oppression. Brilliant!!

  5. Liz Paul says:

    Thank you for the complexity of this piece. I was actually just thinking about women’s clothes and trying to imagine the significance of head scarves and burqas to the women who wear them. Literature that helps people from different cultures better understand each other is so important! Thank you for this generous and beautiful exploration of the burqa and of identity.

  6. Nancy Antle says:

    Beautiful work, Asma! I love the last line, “I am the same with or without burqa” — so powerful. Thank you for pointing out the positive side of the burqa — and that you “know how to use” it. A strong message. Thank you for writing this. Nancy

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