Monday, September 10, 2012

On Pukhtun Females' Participation in the Larger Society

On Sunday, September 2nd 2012 (just a week ago), in northern Virginia, close to Washington, DC, there was a Pashto/Pashtun conference, hosted by the Pashtun American Cultural Association (PACA). I wanted to attend it but was unable to due to certain circumstances. Now I wish I had left everything behind and gone and spoken at this event just because one of the only two female Pukhtuns who spoke there is a friend of mine who has now been receiving all sorts of abusive messages/emails for standing up in front of an almost all-male crowd and giving a voice to Pukhtun women! Her speech has become an Internet sensation; in it, she questioned the absence and the participation of females in the event. She  made some other really important and intelligent comments as well, things that we must not expect a Pukhtun girl to say, apparently. She has been receiving constant attacks, insults, taney, etc. from Pukhtun males (and one female so far, she says), who have been telling her that she basically has no right to speak about Pukhtun women's issues! They tell her she doesn't understand the issues of Pukhtun women, and I don't understand why? She was born and raised in Swat! She completed her education in the UK and is currently living in Washington, D.C. Her Pukhto is perfect (both written and spoken). She is a lawyer by training, very well-educated, very opinionated, very cultured. This girl is Nazrana.

On the Youtube video and the FB ones, people are talking about her clothing. She is dressed in modest pants and shirt. Hold on a second there - how dare we talk about HER clothing when most of the males who attended and spoke at this event were also wearing pants and shirt? If all the attendees were wearing traditional kamis-partug (shalwar-kameez), I'd understand if people expect her to do the same, but otherwise, you fail!!

To all those who are attacking her and her husband just because she appeared and spoke brilliantly in public:
You know what your problem is, Pukhtano sarro? It is that you lack the intellect to be able to sit down with a well-educated woman to address the issues facing our society. So you instead talk of what she's wearing. (It's just like when, during the Olympics, black women were talking about how "Gabby Douglas needs a nice hair-do," completely ignoring her achievement as an accomplished gymnast!) Address her comments. Address her critique of our society, of our practices, of the double standards in our society. Why're you ignoring her message, the content of her speech, and highlighting only what she was or was not wearing? You're pathetic.

Another of your problems is that you are a beghairata (coward) piece of shit who is SO insecure, SO weak, SO dumb that you are afraid to see a woman advance in front of your eyes; you find her a threat to our society because the thought of you falling behind a *woman* is an insult to your manhood. You're pathetic.

One of the best, most important, most beautiful things she said--at the very beginning--was that when she was in Manchester (UK), with a strong Pukhtun community, she'd be invited by the Pukhtun males there to attend their jirga (council) meetings. She'd attend, see that she was the only female there, and they'd praise her for being the only female there and say, "Kaash [we wish], there were more Pukhtun ladies like you!" So she'd respond to them, "Oh yeah? Then where are your wives? Your daughters, sisters, mothers? Why aren't they here?"  She also discussed the need for Pukhtun females to speak for their own selves, instead of being spoken FOR. Really, we can think for ourselves! We can represent ourselves quite well. Pukhtun women don't need representatives, especially when they are men from their own families--because they don't want their women to be spoken about, so they'll never bring them up in public! It is an insult to a man's honor to have his wife/sister be mentioned in public.

And perhaps that's why people are also attacking her husband. Seriously? Could you GET any cheaper than that? You're pathetic.

And then responses to her speech include cowardly things like: "No, we don't want our women to be like you." Wait a minute - are you kidding me? Who the hell put you in charge to decide what we Pukhtun women want and what we don't want? You have no right to be speaking for us! We can and we will speak for ourselves.

Regarding her comment about how those males would not bring along their own daughters/wives/sisters/mothers to these gatherings but expect OTHER Pukhtun girls/women to attend: aaaahhh - this double standard! This backwardness!
This is how it works: our men want other women (Pukhtun women!) to attend these events and to become public leaders and to help improve the conditions of our women, but they don't want their own women (wives, sisters, daughters) to appear in public at all. De ta beghairati wayi! This is cowardice. But, folks, it's nothing new! Where were you when me and a ton of other Pukhtun girls were talking about this non-stop on Twitter just about a month or so ago? And I've written about it on my blog before as well -- on what exactly Pukhtun men mean when they say, "We respect our women!" Here's the link. Nazrana only reminded us of this hypocrisy of us. It's a fact. It's a reality. And the fact that you attacked her for it PROVES it: you know it's true, and you're so ashamed of yourself, you're so regretful that God ever blew breath into that filthy, musty soul of yours that you would rather attack the person who tells you of your flaw rather than to try to correct yourself. Yes, you're just pathetic.

In a Puhktun society, this may be justified--although it should never be justified no matter what: every woman, every human should be respected as her/his own person and should enjoy the right to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable. If in the Pashtun society, a woman feels more comfortable covering her whole body, so be it; if outside of it, she feels the same way, so be it. But each woman is different, and especially in the West, we have the right, the opportunity, and the freedom to wear what *we* want. When we live in the West, it makes no sense for us to be denied positions of leadership or just the space to speak for ourselves at all. To those who kept saying she should instead work for women inside Pakistan/Afghanistan: No, she doesn't have to be Pakistan or Afghanistan to make a difference. We women in the west have very, very serious problems as well, and we all do what we can to help each other and to bring awareness of our problems. One of our main problems? Even in a society where we CAN participate in the larger society, our husbands are not willing to let us out of our houses while they themselves enjoy events like these! Pukhtuns need to urge their wives and sister and daughters and other female family members to speak like this, to think like this, to challenge societal norms that are hurting them and hence the rest of society.

I'm not saying we (Pukhtun women in the West) matter more than those back home; on the contrary, I think we have so many rights and privileges here that would delight my heart to see granted also to my sisters there. But my point is that while we're living here, why not do what we can to help improve our conditions here as well? Again, in the Western context, where the woman's participation in the larger society is all around us and doesn't have any serious obstacles, why should Pukhtun women feel left behind? Here, we have the resources, the space to advance--why not utilize them all?

I worry for the future of Pukhtun women, especially those in the West. Even in the West, having lived here for years and decades, we are denied positions of leadership? Exactly on what grounds?

The fact that there were very few females who attended this event speaks for itself. Yet, it was full of males. Why? Why is it okay for my brother and my father and my son to attend these things, but I, an equally significant member of their household and of this society we all share together, am not tolerated at this same event?
Why could all the male members of my family attend this event, but I, a female, cannot or am discouraged (if not outright forbidden!) from attending as well? If they attend for the social aspect of it--to meet with other Puhktuns in the community--why can't I go for the same reason? Why can't I also go to enjoy myself? Why is there no space for me? Who's going to create the space for me to attend these things so I can be heard? I'm sick of being invisible! it is no honor, Pukhtun men, to keep your women behind the veil 24'7; if your honor depends on whether or not she is seen or heard in public, you have no honor to begin with.

And especially to all those Pukhtun men who came to this event and support women's voice and women's leadership and all: where the hell were/are your women? Why didn't you bring along your wife/sister/daughter/mother, too? Charity begins at home. We can't keep on expecting "other women" (the ones who you don't hesitate to label "sluts"!) to be of service to "our women." When it comes to serving your own nation and people, there's no such thing as "mine" and "yours"; everyone, each of us--both the men and the women--belong to the nation. We live in a world now where women have made it the moon; we can no longer afford to prevent our women from achieving their dreams and goals, especially those that are going to help our nation and people.

What do we learn from all of this, from the abuses that Nazrana continues to receive from Puhktuns? What can I, a Pukhtun female who hopes to be a serious, active participant of the Pukhtun society in the U.S., learn from this? This: "Qrratugai, don't ever, ever appear in public, don't ever, ever speak in public because your own people, the "mighty" Pukhtuns, continuously strive to do everything in their power to insult you, to insult your father's and your husband's and your brother's honor, to accuse you of being a slut just because you attended a Pukhtun gathering and spoke up in it." Am I likely to let this be an obstacle? No. But it's very distressing to know that this is precisely why we do this to each other: we can't tolerate to see even our own people doing something big for the world; it just angers us, it makes us jealous, it makes us wish we were in their place--and since we're not in their place, why not just insult them? Why not just send them and their husbands abusive emails and messages?

You, all of you Pukhtun men, are just as unsafe in our society as we women are as long as you see our education, our leadership, our advancement as a threat to OUR society! As long as women are denied the right to lead, to think, to speak, our men have NO right and NO reason to call themselves gharati (brave). And our men, too, are thus not safe in such a society. How can you see yourself as safe when you are possibly among the most insecure men on earth?

As for the few Pukhtun men who were brave enough to bring along their wives/daughters/sisters and to the ones who have no problem watching a Pukhtun woman, a woman of their race and nation, be able to speak up and discuss some serious, real issues: BRAVO! Now that's real ghairati! You're secure and having another man acknowledge the fact that your wife/daughter/mother/sister is a living human being is no insult to your honor. You are so secure that the ignorant remarks of other Pukhtun males about the fact that your wife/mother/sister/daughter exists and can walk and talk (and God forbid, THINK!) doesn't offend you, doesn't insult you; it's just a waste of their breath and has no effect on you or your masculinity or your manhood or your honor. Now, that's real honor there. We need more men like you. Thank your for living. The qrratugai wishes you and your family many, many blessings and much happiness and peace. Aameen.

Now, kindly, someone, please translate this whole blog post to Pukhto so that those who desperately need to be reminded of all this can access it as well. Thankz.


  1. Wow, I had no idea about the backlash she got, it wouldn't even occur to me that there was anything to be backlashed about! Clothes? For Christ's sake she was modestly dressed! This is an utterly weird mentality, but one shouldn't worry about such people; they are born to discriminate and hold women back from development. If you take them seriously and be hurt by their comments, then you have already let them win.

    1. I agree - we can't let them win.
      But, Hina, it is SO hard ... it's so hard getting such abuses and all. And then to have your husband get them as well? Your husband might be a good man, very supportive of your boldness and achievement, but what would dishearten you is that HE's getting them too ... the kinds of things people are telling him about you. My heart goes out to any woman who has to tolerate this backwardness of our own people...

  2. go to hell with your western funded thoughts you bitch

    1. Thanks for your feedback!
      I don't need your permission to go to hell, but I might consider it when I feel like it! Meanwhile, go cry over the fact that women have a mind after all and aren't as stupid as you were taught they are supposed to be.

      P.S. I let this be published, despite the "B." word in there, but your future comments--and anyone else's--with such language will be completely ignored.

      Peace to you!

  3. What's the link to the speech video?

  4. well said quratagai, this patriach society need be abolished, agree wd both of you, and solidarity.

    1. Thanks for your response, Hassan! We really do need to get rid of any ideas that are insulting to women, their intelligence, their dignity, their humanity--basically anything misogynistic! InshaAllah, one day; we are getting there, even if we have those unpleasant moments like this one today . . .

  5. We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

  6. and to the anonymous (the guy on traffic control on highway to hell)well i can understand , your parents have really work hard on your grooming... keep on doing tarr tarr and tarr ;)

  7. I don't get it how can someone be so insensitive and harsh towards any women but believe me most of us men are like that its just they don't feel anything, its so casual and simple to them to not feel or care its there nature that amazes me sometimes still they sleep carefree they don't have a conscience. The blogger is right its so hard so hard it makes one feel with conscience abnormal among them, there attitude, there degrading remarks towards females, there views and how easily and casually filth comes out of there mouth it makes me sick.
    If you feel or are sensitive, your weak even not a man in there eyes thats why you feel abnormal makes you wonder why such things disturb you or gives you sleepless nights.

  8. Wai qrratu dumra ma ghusa kega, that's what all this is meant for these people WANT to create ripples che bya they feel like their attempts to undermine liberal society have succeeded.

    One should always tackle these things more subtly your anger and your name-calling will accomplish nothing. Recently I've sort of had a similar realization I mean I tend to be quite angry and quite excitable so much so that I use my blog to lash out about such things but now I've realised che ado ghusa kedal na di pakar it accomplishes nothing and it leaves you feeling spiritually drained.

    (This is coming from someone who gave this same lecture to his own parents arguing like mashoomaan a couple of weeks back XD)

  9. :( Qaratugay....very sad to know about the Poor Nazrana, Convey my great regards and deep sorrows to her and her family. Tell her that "da spo pa gapalo Karwan na esarege" Keep it up Nazrana you are doing great Job we are all with you. Your existence and presence is a slap on the faces of Sick Minded People who wish to keep women deprived of all the opportunities that they are enjoying.

  10. I was not present at the Conference but partially watched it on the Net. It was an excellent exercise. I think most of the participants appreciated the lady. The reaction blaming all Pakhtuns is misplaced. Pakhtun women are very fast coming out and participating in public life even in Pakhtunkhwa, which has been consciously pushed towards Talibanization/Arabization intolerance and extremism. I know that because as University Teacher, I have 50% or so girls in my classes. They come from diverse backgrounds, most from rural and far flung areas, including FATA. There have been and are Pakhtun female leaders. examples are Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Bushra Gohar, Jamila Gaillani and many more.
    I am not trying to portray a very liberal picture of Pakhtun socity. there are weaknesses and some very negative traits but we are moving forward. We must also remember other nationalities also have their share.
    I for one appreciate the the ladies who spoke at the Conference, and also the author of this essay. There are challenges which we shall face, fight and overcome on the road to peace, tolerance and an educated liberal Pakhtun identity, enjoying the fruits of Human progress and contributing to its further progress - all of us women or men

  11. Dear qrratugai,
    In this blog you are looking out of mind and I feel that due to this attitude this blog went very lengthy. Be precise and accurate to communicate effectively (don't take it as offensive to your writing) and don't blame the whole Pakhtun Male Community because there are many who have supported the women to achieve a respectable status in the society.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion, Saif! I appreciate it very much.

      Only ... I love my style, I really do! So I'm going to have to stick to writing these long posts.

      As for this one specifically, I don't recall blaming anything on "the whole Pakhtun Male Community"; you should look for the paragraphs in which I express my gratitude the exceptional Pukhtun men who are courageous and strong enough to encourage and support their women to fight for their equality in their societies.

      Thanks again. And welcome to my blog!

  12. hats off to that brave women and the author of the blog, we need more education in our pukhtoon society and unfortunately since last 4 decades, pakhtoons in the Afghanistan and pakistan didnot concentrate too much on education. we definitely needs law to prevent women abuse, it will take time to bring change in the society but we are hopeful, we have Awami national party which has educated pukhtoons female representatives as well. unfortunately mullahs have been backed and funded by Saudis and pakistanis and that is also one of reasons of pukhtoons backwardness, but more needs to be done no doubt through educational change. cheers for highlighting such issue. God bless you and keep writing up, love your blogs.

    1. Thank you, Wahab Khana - that's very kind of you to say! :) God bless you as well! aameen.

    2. Thareef hr chaa tha der kha lagi................ :-)

  13. qrratugai, I agree with your point of view but I think you are condemning whole Pakhtun male community for this. I know you will say that "I have appreciated 'good guys' in Pakhtun male community" but still your choice of words is very contemptuous towards Pakhtun males which is not good.
    Your articles are very informative and very well written but it portray Male Pakhtun as monster and a cruel entity, which is not fair. Again you will say that "you have missed what I mean to say" but the tone of your all articles prove this. I am sorry for too much criticism but I say what I have felt after reading your blog. I am more than 100% sure that you will defend your writing style and will continue to write in this manner like any obstinate Paktun (either male or female):-).
    PS: Sorry for this khu mung tolo pukhtanu ke daa dera ghata masala da che khpala ghalti chare hum na manu"

    1. Thanks for your input, Balarkhela!

      You know, it's way, way too fascinating to see which Pukhtuns come here to tell me that I'm generalizing or that I'm saying *all Pukhtun men are bad* and which ones come to completely agree with this post (and most of my other ones). It's just so interesting.

      That said, I'm of course willing to work on my tone. The observations and the facts aren't going to change until and unless our perceptions of women change, and as you can tell from this post and many, many others of mine, that's unlikely to happen considering how stubborn we Pukhtuns are :) I'll write about exactly what I see, experience, and know, and I'm sorry that it bothers you and some others. We really can't stand it to hear that we have flaws in us, as your P.S. says :)

      Thanks again!

    2. P.S. If you think my tone is bad because of the kinds of words I've used ("cowardly, beghairata, pathetic," etc.), then I'm actually going to have to say that ... I don't think I'm going to deny that most of our men really are that. I think it's great to hear a man's perspective on this (which is often a denial of how cowardly most of our men really, really are), but because it is we the women who have to tolerate this cowardliness of most of our men, I think the women's voice is more needed here.

      And what do I mean by cowardliness, etc.? Anyone who's read this post would know it is very clear what I mean by it.... Though it is contrary to what our culture defines as cowardly and brave, esp. when it comes to a man's masculinity and all. I'm challenging exactly that perception of masculinity--the one that says that only a beghairata sarray (cowardly man) allows his wife or sister or daughter to appear in public or be seen in public or to speak up in public, etc. Basically, that a woman is a completely private property (belonging to the man) and any man who denies this is a coward. This mentality has harmful effects on society in the long-term.)

      I know that's heartbreaking :)

  14. qrratugai keep going. I was expecting same answer. Like me, you are also showing no flexibility on your point of view. You should also write a blog on stubborn nature of Pakhtuns (male and female) and its effects....:-)

    1. Thanks for coming back!
      But the answers are there, wroriya :) If not in my replies to these comments, then in the above post.

      Writing about the stubborn nature of Pukhtuns ... hm, good idea. I'll see if I can come up with something for it! Thanks for the suggestion :)


Dare to opine :)

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