Poet Speaks for Afghanistan
By LANDON JAMES
The University of Mary Washington has always prided itself on constructing a community of diverse people openly sharing different perspectives and ideas. To some, like junior Sajia Alaha Ahrar, this type of communication is essential to promoting world peace.
Ahrar is a 22-year-old student from Kabul, Afghanistan with big dreams of creating a world without war and united through peace and equality.
She is a human rights, political science and international relations triple major, but her true passion comes from addressing others about her experiences in Afghanistan through poetry and writing.
Poetry is an inseparable part of Ahrar’s heritage. Writing gives her the opportunity to show the world Afghanistan’s beautiful culture and lifestyle that is often overlooked because of the media’s focus on the fighting and suffering that constantly plagues the country.
“Afghanistan is famous for its rich culture, poetry and literature and has nurtured different distinguished poets and writers in different eras,” said Ahrar. “Poetry is the expression of my inner feelings conveyed through my poems to reveal truths and positive messages to my people and humanity.”
Although Ahrar speaks about the issues that face people of all ages in Afghanistan, the messages in her poems are meant for all of humanity.
“Living in a war-torn situation makes you realize that this life is not very long and it is not worth it,” she said. “Why should we be greedy and be in war on each other instead of helping those who are in need?”
Ahrar explained that living in a country plagued with so much war has made her a kind-hearted person because she constantly saw the suffering and killing of so many people and it made her want to help.
In Afghanistan, explained Ahrar, there is a strong belief that poetry emerges from the heart and in the heart is where God exists and dwells. This makes Ahrar’s poetry not only political and personal, but spiritual as well. Ahrar explained she has written poems praising God, Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and the prophet Muhammad.
Although every poem has a positive and powerful message, they are not romantic, according to Ahrar.
“I cannot write lively poems because I am a young woman with full of emotions and humanitarian feelings. When I see people are smiling that makes me smile but when I see people are in hardships, trouble and tearful, that turn me to tears,” Ahrar explained
Ahrar is humble about her writing, but peoples’ reactions and reception of her work have been positive.
In addition to composing poetry and writing, Ahrar is regularly speaks to various local and national groups. Some of the groups she has spoken to this semester include the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, Dixon-Smith Middle School and a group of Girl Scouts.
Ahrar feels obligated to tell people of all ages and backgrounds about Afghanistan and how much the people there are suffering and in need of help. In order to reach out to the various audiences she speaks to, Ahrar tailors her messages to topics that the listeners can relate to.
For Dixon-Smith Middle School, Ahrar spoke about child labor in Afghanistan and how blessed the middle school students were to have chairs to sit on while they listened. For the Girl Scouts, Ahrar talked about the lives of Afghani children in general and the challenges they face.
Ahrar gave a speech entitled, “War and Women’s Issues in Afghanistan” to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg where she brought the audience to tears from the passion of her speaking.
“I already loved human beings, but it made me believe that human beings are really kind-hearted when they see the suffering of others,” Ahrar said.
To Ahrar, the chance to speak to people of all different ages and communities is part of a lifelong goal to educate and empower as many people as possible.
“I’ve always considered it my responsibility if I can’t help somebody financially to help them spiritually, educationally and culturally,” she said. “I present the real Afghan to people.”
Ahrar believes it is essential for women to seek education so they do not become victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, she wants the wants the younger generation to be as educated as possible and appreciate its importance.
Ahrar believes that people can become better educated by learning to communicate more easily with each other. According to Ahrar, one of the best ways to eliminate problems in the world is to improve communication by learning more languages.
“If you know one language, you’re one person. If you learn two, you’re two persons. If you learn three, then you’re three persons. Learning languages enriches everyone,” she said. “I believe that education is an ornament for women and a pride for man.”
Ahrar can speak seven languages including Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic and English. Usually, Ahrar will read a translated version or hand out translations of her poetry to her audiences.
As a result of Ahrar’s ability to touch the hearts of others through her poetry and speeches, she was selected to receive the World Poetry Ambassador to the United States and Afghanistan award for her poem “Desire for World Peace” at the First World Poetry International Festival in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada on May 13 and 14.
The theme of the festival is Multicultural Unity and Ahrar will be speaking on the history of poetry in Afghanistan, reading selections of her poetry for as many as 200 people.
Ahrar did not expect such a positive reception to her work, let alone be awarded for her efforts. If anything, Ahrar feels she is simply doing her duty to her country and all humanity.
“I always do what I do for me and my conscience. I never believe in winning or losing. I do not see myself as a player, just a responsible human being whose goal is to get an education and educate others,” Ahrar explained. “It was a dream I was dreaming as a child to tell the sufferings of my people to the world.”