Afghan woman poet Nadia Anjuman remembered two years on

Kabul, November 6, 2007 (AFP): Two years ago police discovered the battered body of Nadia Anjuman, a young Afghan poet already known in literary circles for her poignant poems about the misery of being a woman in Afghanistan.

Police arrested her husband on charges of beating her to death in their home in the western city of Herat; he confessed to the assault but not to murder. Today the case is classified by the courts as "suicide."

The death of the 25-year-old thrust her work into the spotlight and today her poems -- written in the Dari language, which is close to Persian -- have been translated into several languages.

They speak of the pain of Afghan women, trapped in a conservative culture torn apart by nearly three decades of war that were followed by the 1996-2001 rule of the extremist Taliban -- known for their harsh treatment of women.

An extract from "Useless", for example, reads: "Happy the day when I will break the cage/When I will leave this solitude and sing with abandon/I am not a weak tree that sways with every breeze/I am an Afghan girl and it is right that I always cry."

Anjuman's work evokes "a great sorrow directly linked to her status as a woman and an Afghan," says Leili Anvar, a literature expert who has translated some of her poems into French.

Under the Taliban, girls could not go to school, women were barred from working and confined largely to their homes.

The removal of the fundamentalist regime has seen few improvements to the lives of most Afghan women, who suffer abuse and discrimination.

Women still chose to end their lives through self-immolation, including in Herat, an ancient city of two million people and known for its art, culture and literature.

Anjuman "was becoming a great Persian poet", the head of the respected Herat Literary Circle, Ahmad Said Haqiqi, said at the time of her death on November 4, 2005.

Anvar, who has dedicated several pages of an upcoming anthology of Afghan poetry to Anjuman, agrees. "When one considers her age, the extreme maturity of her work is astonishing," she says.

Anjuman "showed a great mastery of Persian free verse and of the music of language," she told AFP.

One of the late poet's professors at the University of Herat, Mohammad Daud Munir, says her work showed a "deep and comprehensive thought."

"Her absence has left a gap in the literary community of Herat," he said.

Anjuman's first collection, "Gul-e-dodi" ("Dark Red Flower"), came out a few months before she died and while she was a university student.

The Herat Literary Circle has since released a second collection of 80 poems and her work is regularly published, Munir says.

Abroad, beside the publication due in France, Anjuman's work has also been translated into English and Italian.

The memory of the young woman is fresh among those who were close to her.

Her best friend, Nahid Baqi, who studied with her at university, is bitter.

"Everyone wants to forget," she told AFP. "There was pressure on the authorities to conclude that it was a suicide."

Anjuman's husband, Farid Ahmad Majeednia, who is the head of the Herat University library, says she has written only about the Taliban period and before she was married.

"All of her poems are a narration of sorrow and sadness which is a result of being imprisoned behind home walls," says Majeednia, who is raising the couple's young daughter.

"Now almost two years later, my hands and legs still tremble when I think of her death and her absence," he says.

"After Nadia's death lots of things have ended for me."