A poem by Samay Hamed


Afghan kids with a US soldier. (Source)

My child!
You will grow up even on American donated powdered milk
As I did grow up on Russian donated Moloko,
On counterfeit Pakistani Milk Pack, or
On pasteurized Iranian milk that I drank with insults.
You will grow up, too, even on expired milk from ISAF soldiers,

But you will not become a grown-up.

My Child!
You can write on the body of a donated Indian plane, Ariana!
And fly from Frankfurt to Kabul jan;
You can write on the forehead of a donated Pakistani bus, Milli Bus!
And go from Maiwand Avenue to Darulaman,

But you will not reach anywhere.


Original in Persian.


Khayyam on hypocrisy

Religious hypocrisy is the most irritating aspect of Muslim culture in general and Afghan culture in particular. Some may believe that Muslim hypocrisy is a product of the totalitarian political orders ruling the Islamic east for the past few centuries. The truth, however, is that hypocrisy has been a widespread social norm in this region at least from the time people converted to Islam. In Islam, unlike other mainstream religions, there is a great amount of emphasis on the jurisprudence (Fiqh), in contrast to spirituality which is the basis of Buddhism and theological principles which define Christianity. Of course there is spirituality and theology in Islam as well, but they are overshadowed by jurisprudence. If the muslims want to be accepted in their communities, they have to observe the strict religious rituals and practices on a daily basis and obey the sharia law. In reality, being a good Muslim, as the book requires, is a very difficult task. Therefore the people have no other option but to live a double life: a life for themselves and a life for the eyes of the public.

There are two classical poets in Persian literature who are very vocal against the culture of hypocrisy in Muslim communities, Hafez and Khayyam.  Hafez was a sufi, a great rival of mullas who are considered the embodiment of hypocrisy. Khayyam was a philosopher and mathematician, who expressed his blasphemous ideas in poetry, which in Persian/Afghan culture is the only realm of immunity for intellectual production. Both these men have great influences in Persian literature; their critical poems on hypocrite practices are well-referred even in everyday conversations.

The following is one of Khayyam’s quatrains about hypocrisy. Two English translations follow:

شیخی به زنی فاحشه گفتا مستی

هرلحظه به دام دیگری پا بستی

گفتا شیخا هرآنچه گویی هستم

آیا تو چنان که می نمایی هستی؟

A religious man said to a whore, “You’re drunk,
Caught every moment in a different snare.”
She replied, “Oh Shaikh, I am what you say,
Are you what you seem?”

Translated by Peter Avery and John Health Stubbs


A Sheikh addressed a prostitute,
And said, ‘You tempt with your device
Man after man, whom you entice.
How can you be so dissolute?’
The woman then made this reply
‘I am, O Sheikh, what you relate,
But are you so immaculate,
As you assume and certify?’

Translation by Arthur J. Arberry.

I couldn’t find Edward FitzGerald’s translation of this quatrain.

Kabul Shit by Lily Allen

I really like Lily Allen’s Fuck You, a beautiful and funny song in support of LGBT community.  Her other song called Kabul Shit is also very captivating and meaningful. The song is not relevant to Kabul city, but it’s not irrelevant either (see the definition of “Kabul Shit” ). I thought it would be good to share its video and the lyrics here with you.


There’s a hole in our logic
There’s a hole in the sky
And one day just like magic
We’re all going to die
‘Cause we didn’t turn the lights off
And we didn’t take the bus
Even though we know we should have
Oh, silly old us

Well we should have recycled
And saved our resources
While there’s still someone elses
Someone call the armed forces
And we’ll blame it on terror
Also known as religion
But we shouldn’t feel guilt
For protecting our children

Excuse me, sir
But is this what they call denial
Just to carry on regardless
We’ll only do it for a while
We’ll carry on straight down the line
Down the road to nowhere
Do you know where it is leading us
And do we even wanna go there

I don’t have the answers
I don’t know where we start
Start to pick up all the pieces
Of everything we’ve torn apart
Now, you’d think that we’d be grateful
For the fact we’ve got a choice
Instead we throw it back at people
Who don’t even have a voice

And the teachers always told us
Told us we should love thy neighbor
And my mother always told me
Told me I should vote [new?] labor
But I don’t know who to trust
And I just find it all confusing
All as useless as each other
Past the point of being amusing

Excuse me, sir
But is this what they call denial
Just to carry on regardless
We’ll only do it for a while
We’ll carry on straight down the line
Down the road to nowhere
Do you know where it is leading us
And do we even wanna go there


Excuse me, sir
But is this what they call denial
Just to carry on regardless
We’ll only do it for a while
We’ll carry on straight down the line
Down the road to nowhere
Do you know where it is leading us
And do we even wanna go there.

Giving Khayyam a chance

This is cherry juice ;) ... Kabul/Fall 2010

The following verses are sang in every Afghan wedding with the melancholic melody of ahesta boro (“go slowly”) song. The poem is that of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) the celebrated Persian poet of earthly pleasures.

And sour or sweet, why fuss since life shall fly,
At Balkh or Baghdad – why care where we die?
Drink wine, for silv’ry Moon will keep its beat
From full to new long after you and I.

— Khayyam (Saidi, translator)

In the same wedding night, a mulla also gives  a religious speech prohibiting the things that Khayyams’ poetry suggests. Which one should we listen to? We have been listening to mulla’s for far too long and this is what we got, I think it is time to give Khayyam a chance as well. Or it isn’t?

“they’ve learned to shoot but not to read”

Phillip Corwin was part of a UN team in Kabul who tried unsuccessfully in April 1992 to transform power from Afghanistan’s last communist president to the country’s first Islamic one. When the war broke out in the city and he felt so desperate for not being able to do anything, took a pen and a paper and like a good Afghan in such moments, expressed his feelings in the following poem:

Waiting for the End: Kabul, 4/92

The soldiers smile their smile of pride;

each heart contains a fist inside.

The land they left has gone to seed;

they’ve learned to shoot but not to read.


In villages with holy names

they’ve seen the sky explode in flames.

In godly mountains thick with pines

their pets have been deformed by mines.


In playgrounds meant for girls and boys

where lethal pellets lay like toys,

a child that only played at war

has two less fingers than before.


For decades long the feringhee

dispatched their best technology

to help the people kill themselves,

then granted aid to fill their shelves.


Now we sit like stumps and wait

as rival armies infiltrate,

as women blot their skin with mud

and stock their cellars with cold food.


My landlord is inured to war,

has seen it many times before.

The only hope, he says, is faith;

the only waste is useless death.


The source of the poem: this book.