Being a woman with greater goals in a conservative society is a problem, something challenging or even dangerous. On one hand, you have to deal with your parents whose ‘khalak ba sa wayi’ stops you from your success. While on the other hand, your life decisions can make your relatives sever ties with you.
Sometimes, the situation worsens to an extent that the family is compelled to kill their own daughters outright to save face. An accident, which was almost similar in nature, happened with Pashto poetess Noora Ehsas which she shared in an interview with BBC.
Relatives suggested Noora Ehsas’ parents to kill her
When Swat valley’s Noora Ehsas began writing poems to express her feelings, she didn’t know she will become a celebrity in no time. Almost a year after she appeared on social media, she became the talk of the town. and due to her unique voice and poetry style, her fame grew manifold.
However, her fame wasn’t all smiles and without its drawbacks. When she started getting famous for her poetry and video clips of verses started appearing on social media, her relatives didn’t like her success one bit.
They were more concerned about their family’s ‘izzat’ (honour). So much so that they even advised her parents to end Noora’s life.
The seventeen-year-old poetess told BBC that, at first, her relatives pressed her parents that she must stop writing poetry and posting videos of herself reading poetry on social media. When Noora’s parents refused to do so, their relatives severed ties with them.
She also claimed that some of her relatives even suggested that her parents kill her if she disobeyed them. “Some of my relatives also gave the advice to my father that I should be killed if I do not obey his orders,” said Noora Ehsas.
Noora further explained that, although she has been facing difficulties since the start of her career, her troubles took a new turn when the video of one of her verses was edited wrongly.
The original verse was“za hasi pa zrha sorai sorai yama, yaw di paki bal uki kho udeki” which means “my heart is already scarred, what difference would it make if I get another scar”
A youngster from her village edited the word “zrha” (heart) out from the video, giving her verse a whole different (and wrong) meaning.
The video meme was watched by millions online, who made fun of the poetess and even passed sexist remarks. After that, Noora says, she had to confront bullies everywhere. She was not only bullied online but also in real life. Everyone – from children to elders – would shout “sorai, sorai” (meaning scarred or full of holes) whenever she left home or went to college.
The young poetess recorded the original video of that poem with Peshawar’s young poet and journalist Afsar Afghan. Afsar told BBC that, after the edit went viral, he was also harassed by people online. He received multiples messages from people asking all sorts of questions. He said that, after he saw people spamming hate in his inbox, he can not imagine how much Noora would have been through.
Noora Ehsas wears a veil when appearing in a video or attending mushairas (poetic symposiums) as her parents do not allow her without face covering.
Despite her pardah, Noora’s relatives believe she has brought shame to the family name. They demand that Noora quits poetry and stop appearing in videos as none of their girls has ever done this.
Her parents, however, support her career decision and let her pursue her passion. Due to this, Noora and her family have broken ties with their relative and barely attend important family gatherings like marriage and funerals. Noora says that her mother feels sad when she hears of a family gathering because everyone is there to attend except them.
She further added that many girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa write poems and prose to express their inner selves but they can’t share it with the outer world due to fear of harassment and abuse. However, Noor says she advises them not to hide and come forward to share their work.
Noora Ehsas is one of the very few poetesses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who are brave enough to come forward despite society’s pressure. She is a trailblazer for many women out there who want to pursue a career of their choice.
We wish her more power and success and pray that every woman in our society gets the rights and respect that Islam has given them.