Book city in Kabul bazaar. (Photo: Shadi Khan Saif)

Book city in Kabul bazaar. (Photo: Shadi Khan Saif)

Afghans have passion for poetry and they take great pride in their poets.

Annual Poetry evenings are organized at this time of the year to welcome in spring.

In the middle of the lively Kabul old bazaar is an old and tall building that is known as the book city hall.  This is the hangout place for female poets.

Every Thursday afternoon, well known female poets as well as emerging ones, come here.

It was started seven years ago by Sahira Shareef, a politician and artist.

“If someone said the drive behind this literary society was a political one they wouldn’t be wrong. I see politics not just as a way to secure a seat in parliament but it’s a struggle for the women’s right that can happen through our literary movement,” she said.

The weekly poetry reading has given birth to the “Mirman Adabi Baheer” or “Women’s Literary Movement”.  

The movement is made up of some 200 women writers and poets who explore issues ranging from culture, love, peace, sport and politics.  They have published 15 books.

Najib Manaly owns the Book City hall---that has a book bank, a small restaurant and conference rooms.

“Afghanistan needs all its forces, including women and Afghan women have to find her voice and have to express their views, for this they need to develop their own tools of literary expression, this is what Mirman Adabi Baheer does and this is why we are supporting them,” he explained.

Around 50 women joined the event tonight.  Despite being the safest city in Afghanistan women still in Kabul still avoid going out at night he says.

“In Kabul we have transportation problems, we cannot ask women to go to locations situated far away from their homes, then we have their availability problems, family constrains, organizational constrains, all this makes it very difficult for women to come out and show what they are capable of doing.”

23 years-old Wazma Fazli is one of the youngest members of the Mirman Adabi Baheer.

“I love poetry, especially the rhythm and flow with which we can express our feelings; I particularly like the Landai, which are short and crispy,” she said.  

Landai are two-line folk poems that can be funny, sexy, angry or tragic and have traditionally dealt with love and grief.

It is common belief that creator of most of the landais were women in the countryside.

Today women who live outside Kabul can call in and reading their poems on speaker phone at the poetry night.

Founder Sahira Shareef says they doing nothing less than sparking a revolution.

“In recent years billions of dollars have been spent on workshops and seminars to empower Afghan women but believe me all you need is a few deep words of a good poem. Those words will have a much more lasting effect that all those workshops put together,” she said.

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