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My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women

A Sakharov Prize event

The rapid seizure of Afghanistan by Taliban forces in August 2021 raised grave fears of a return to patterns of human rights violations previously witnessed in the country from 1996 to 2001. Even after 2001, violence against women and girls continued on a large scale and remained chronically under-reported, but now that the Taliban has barred all women from participation in government, the situation has degraded further.

In September 2021, a group of 11 prominent Afghan women received nomination for the Sakharov Prize. These women have been actively engaged in the fight for their rights, education and inclusion in the construction of Afghan society. They come from different ethnic backgrounds but are united in their mutual cause of defending human rights, in particular the rights of women, focusing on the political, educational, civil and cultural spheres.

The European Parliament seeks to maintain the Afghan women’s situation high on the EU and international agenda, and this event will have at its heart a remarkable anthology of short stories by contemporary Afghan women writers – My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird, New Fiction by Afghan Women, which is the first of its kind in translation, from Dari and Pashto. Since the Taliban takeover, and with the regression of women’s rights and status within the Afghan society, these stories have a particular resonance. Join us to explore these women’s stories at this critical juncture in Afghanistan.

Copies of My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird will be available on the night.


Samira RAFAELA MEP has been a Member of the European Parliament on behalf of D66 since 2019. She is part of the Renew Europe group. In her work at the National Police and previously the municipality of Amsterdam and in her activities for D66 and the Young Democrats, she was always concerned with inclusion and participation. In the European Parliament, Mrs Rafaela sits on the committees on international trade and women’s rights and gender equality. She is vocal in her support of Afghan women and has asked the President of the European Council to urge Member States to guarantee a safe exit for anyone, and women and girls specifically, at risk of being targeted by the Taliban.

Lucy HANNAH is founder and director of Untold Narratives CIC, which produced the anthology, My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird, New Fiction by Afghan Women (MacLehose Press). She founded and led Commonwealth Writers which operates across 53 countries, particularly in areas with little or no creative industries. While at the BBC, she established BBC Writer’s Room. She has worked with new writers in many countries, including Afghanistan, Chechnya, and South Sudan. She is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London, and Director of the BOCAS LitFest in Trinidad.

Zarghuna KARGAR is one of the translators of My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird, New Fiction by Afghan Women, (MacLehose Press). She is an award-winning journalist for BBC World News, based in London. She produced and presented the BBC Afghan Woman’s hour and is the author of Dear Zari, The Secret Lives of Women in Afghanistan (2012), a book that reveals the secret lives of women across Afghanistan and allows them to tell their stories in their own words. She has dedicated most of her journalistic career to working for and with Afghan women. She also wrote Amina’s story, in 2013’s Girl Rising documentary.

Nicola DAHRENDORF, Chair, is a human rights and humanitarian practitioner, focused on protection, peacebuilding and conflict resolution in conflict and post-war contexts. She has worked with International Non-Governmental Organisations, the United Nations, the Norwegian, United Kingdom and Swiss governments and in an academic capacity. She holds Master’s degrees in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and in Law and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.


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