Laila Sarahat Rushani (1337-1383)


 by Sharif Fayez


Laila Sarahat Rushani is considered a leading modern Afghan female poet.  Her father, Sarshar Rushani, was a known journalist, who was tortured and brutally killed by the ruling wing of the communist Khalq party in Afghanistan. She was born in Charikar, the capital city of Perwan province north of Kabul. She graduated from the Faculty of Letters of Kabul University in 1977.  She lost her young sister in Australia. While still mourning the tragedy of her sister, she lost her mother. Her poetry is largely an expression of the pain and tragedy she experienced during the war.

She was one of the few poets who remained in Kabul and directly experienced its devastation and the killing of thousands of innocent civilians. She is known for her strong spirit of protest, her courage and intellectual resistance against the communist regime and Talibanís reign of terror, which permeate much of her poetry.   

Laila Sarahat wrote both classical and modern poetry. Her poetic collections include The Continuing Scream ,The Green Dawn, From Stones and Mirrors, and A Night Story. She was forced to leave Kabul after the Taliban militia intensified their abusive treatment of women. She went to the Netherlands in 1998, where she lived as a refugee. She published Eve in Exile, a literary journal in Farsi while living in the Netherlands.

on July 21, 2004, she died of brain cancer at the age of 46 in a hospital in the Netherlands. On July 29, her body was received at Kabul Airport by a large number of Afghan poets, intellectuals and her friends and relatives, who mournfully escorted her funeral to Shuhadai-e-Saliheen cemetery for burial.

Unlike many young poets and intellectuals of her time, who either espoused the communist ideology or those who became disillusioned after a period of cooperation with the communist regimes, Rushani never compromised her commitment to her art and spirit of justice and integrity. For this reason, the Afghan literary community adores her as a paragon of intellectual freedom and courage.

Most of her poems teem with images of captivity, darkness, loneliness, wandering, escape, revenge, absurdity and nothingness, which sometimes assume metaphysical dimensions. Rushani wrote both traditional fixed forms and modern free verses, such as ghazals and quatrains. Since writing modern poetry has always confronted censure and prejudice by a number of traditionalists and the literate public, most modern Afghan poets, like Rushani, have also dabbled in writing classical lyrical poetry, with modern images and themes. In fact, the most successful modern poets are those who have written both fixed and free verses. In some of her poems, as in those of several other Afghan poets, who experienced the monstrosity of the Soviet occupation, the color ďredĒ becomes a terrifying obsession, as in the following two pieces: 






The flames that devoured the houses

Were red

And left ashes

The blood they shed and poured

On the calendar of the year

Are still red

The autumn leaves

The dismal sunset color

Were red


Even the color of my nightmares

Are all red

Red, red



My darling,


When you said you would come to me

With a bundle of red flowers

I trembled





Addicted to Loneliness


You will not come

You will not come

Where my spring is so empty

Of the breathing sound

Of swallows


The night is full of nothingness

Nay, the night is full of thick fear

The night is full of the poetry of silence

The night is full of the murmur of silence


You will not come

You will not come

The night is like a lagoon

In whose depth my heart is rotting

Slowly, slowly, slowly

I envied

The sparrows that loved flying


How much I love to fly

But an invisible string

As long as time

Has bound my wing


The night is addicted to its darkness

And I to loneliness

You donít know

What it means to be addicted to loneliness

You donít know

You will not come




Look, this old impotent imp

Is turning back the pages of history

Turning the bloody twenty-four seasons

Into twenty-four minutes


Why didnít the fossils remain silent?

This aging slave  

This unthinking stinking imp

Likes to inscribe the fate of the standing palm trees 

With the pencil of the wind


The clowns

Are aping heroes

And the fossils are taking lives

And the heroes, mounting their horses,

Heralded the spring, but palpitated in blood

The spring was brutally sacrificed

Fossils, fossils, fossils!

May you become mute fossils again!


The palm trees are standing

And history will not turn back 



Assamayi Mountain


Oh Assamayi

                      in your stony breaths

is the spirit of a thousand silent sparks.

Oh stone, oh patience

your height is faithís firmness --

historyís sublime poem

Oh mountain

the myth of sacred pride

is inscribed

in your conscious mind

The endless pain of this city

Is for so long

Engraved in your cold stony vein

Oh stone, oh patience

oh silent witness of crimes.

what wound was swelling

in your inner-stoneís bleeding heart

that suddenly sundered your heart?

Oh stone, oh patience!


A part of Assamayi mountain, the highest mountain in south of Kabul, cracked in 1991.