By Sauliha Yaseen

They always spoke of how beautiful I was.
I was an attraction, a possession highly valued.
They waged wars, shed blood. None would let me go.

I am Habba Khatoon who sang songs into the autumn air, waiting for her beloved
I was taught how to live with the pain of losing a loved one very early in my life
I am magnificent but scarred. Each scar has a story of its own.

1931, the world had moved forward and so had I.
I had new captors who reveled in my beauty, and new scars telling new stories.
The winter snow melted into the fragrance of spring and then came summer, one I dread.
Abdul Qadeer spoke as I listened,
The slogans of freedom were soon muffled by the sounds raging bullets.

I saw the men fall to the captor’s bullets.
I lost a husband that day, a father and a son too.
Yet I have fought all these years. I have resisted always.
Years came forth and left me with more memories.

11th February was a winter day, heralding a new spring
In all my glory, they told me that I lost another son.
Yes I am Maqbool’s mother who still waits by his empty grave.

It was my wedding day,
with a heavy heart and henna stained hands, I left my home.
I had my groom with me, I felt protected in his presence.
It took them fifteen minutes and my world fell apart.
I am Mubina Ghani, I was raped on my wedding day.

February came every year, this year in 1991 it brought along doom on the villages of Kunan and Poshpora.
I was pinned to the ground and brutalized on that fateful night,
by men whose faces I don’t remember, they were countless,
and were they even humans?
Years later they speak of that night again and again.
Each has a different narration and a different explanation.
The wounds healed but the pain did not fade.

Now Tehreek had taken a new turn.
I was a mother who lost her child. I was a widow trying to make both ends meet.
My husband left in the morning and never returned.
They handed me a file and told me to move on in life.

Each evening as Maghrib prayers are called,
I sit by the window waiting for his arrival.
Yes I am his half-widow.

Sometimes I am silent and sometimes I make noise.
I scream for my son who was taken away
I am Parveena Ahangar.

I went to the orchard where I thought I was safe.
Forgetting that  lived in an occupied land.
It did not take them much time to tear off their garb of humanity and my clothes.
I pleaded not for myself but for my unborn child.
I am Asiya, I am Neelofer.

They taught me how to wear hijaab but did not tell me it was not enough.
Each day while going to school I was molested.
One day I decided to speak up. I regret I did.
Maybe if I had kept quiet, it would have saved lives.
I am the Handwara girl who lives with regret.

My brother had gone to play when I heard the bullets.
I took my dupatta and ran into the streets to get him home.
Hours later I was brought home in blood sodden clothes.
The bullet that was meant for him,
I stood in its way.
I am Yasmeen who was murdered on the street.

I stand in the queues of government offices waiting for compensation.
I had promised I would not take money from my husband’s killers.
But my kids were hungry.

I wait ouside Tihar and Kotbalwal,
in the scorching sun just to catch his glimpse.
My beloved son, who is languishing in the jail for no crime other than being a Kashmiri.

I sit on the wooden bench waiting for my doctor,
Every time this young lad tells me to not take stress as he prescribes antidepressants
How can I not take stress?

Every night as the army patrols the street, I lay sweating in bed.
Each knock on the creaking door makes my heart beat louder and louder.
I have heard stories. I have seen too much to not take stress.

Each day is a struggle but I have survived.
And I always will.


via With Kashmir
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