My dream and my father's smiling face
They took those from me, but at least bread should not be taken
~ Fatima Ahmadi

Poetry by Afghan women

Voices in the Cage shares the pain, hopes and sorrow of women in Afghanistan through poetry. Led by the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR), with support from Oranges & Sardines Foundation and Red Room Poetry, Voices in the Cage is a collection of poems by 25 female poets in Afghanistan published for International Women's Day (8 March 2022).

The Taliban have been banning and censoring all types of media work in Afghanistan, especially anything related to women and girls. Girls and women are denied schooling, teachers threatened with death if they return to school and many are forced to wear Burqa again. Women are no longer talking about preserving the progress and the rights they have gained; they are talking about mere survival. It is a return to the hard-line rule of gender segregation of the 1990s, barring women from almost all work and education.

The women featured in Voices in the Cage are thankful for poetry as an extraordinary opportunity to speak, share their situations and raise their voices.

With few other ways to raise their voice under the current regime, Afghan women describe this poetry project as a way of healing and sharing their experiences in the face of war and oppression. Coordinated by APNOR over a number of months, each artist has produced a poem in Dari describing their current situation and story, published here alongside an English translation.


Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) is the only region-wide refugee-led network of refugee-led initiatives in the Asia Pacific region that is working with and for refugees. APNOR was established in 2018, on the recommendation of Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR), which brought together 104 representatives from refugee-led organisations in Asia to advocate for refugee agency and self-representation.

The situation in Afghanistan

The rapid retreat of U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan and the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021 has left the country torn apart, and its people in danger. Over the past few months, we have heard the cries of Afghans; their screams for support and help echo from all corners of the country.

These sounds are familiar to project leader and founder of APNOR, Najeeba Wazefadost. As a refugee due to the actions of the Taliban, Najeeba knows, with devastating certainty, that her country now faces continued suffering that will leave thousands of refugees in its wake.

Women are once again finding themselves prisoners of their gender - no longer able to work or write, told to stay in their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and being forcibly married off to Taliban fighters. Girls are being taken out of school, and schools for girls are closed.

As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, many Afghans, especially women, girls, and human rights defenders, face the worst security situation of their lifetime. On the ground, especially away from Kabul and in the provinces across Afghanistan, women and girls are being denied access to education, employment, and freedom of movement. Human rights defenders are being shot in the streets. The people of Afghanistan are at grave risk, and they are understandably seeking a way out of this danger to some form of safety abroad, despite all the uncertainties that decision brings with it. But Najeeba describes that when her people try to escape this horrific violence they are met with closed borders.

Partners and Supporters

  • Oranges & Sardines Foundation