just another Ayesha

“someone once said to me that the way you love someone can actually change their life.”


Photographed by R.H.

I used to feel sorry for flowers. I would also feel a physical pain when I’d see them plucked, strewn on the ground, or pressed between the pages of a book. I believed that their being conventionally pretty had to be a disadvantage because it meant that they would always have to prove they are more than just that. I thought that because their beauty is short-lived, it does not carry substance. I did not understand the demand which qualified such a supply nor I did find the price attached to be worthy of them. I would not carry flowers not even for visits to the hospital or the graveyard. Was I wrong to feel sorry for the flowers?

I wish I can go back in time and tell myself that there will be a day when I will look at beauty and see that it is not a endless wishing well carved deep by what is cast into it. That someday I’ll see it’s a tunnel – I don’t have to get distracted by its presence nor should I worry about its absence. The tunnel will end. There is light ahead even on days when I have to walk alone. It’s when the tunnel is darkest that the promise of what is beautiful and lasting makes the next step easier.

When I’m not looking, standing beside me are those who went out of the way to share their light and their beauty. For them it may have just a Friday where they helped me wear flowers weaved together to encircle my wrists. They helped me learn more about this beauty that is passing and temporary, the beauty that remains, and the light shining ahead.


Ghost Towns

Reporting on Reporting – Part One


bannu, 17th june 2014.  photographed by: hasham ahmed (afp/getty)

When the war began, the elderly chose to stay. They preferred to send their children to seek shelter.

The military had given the locals some time to escape before it imposed curfew. And when they left, the refugees began referring to their settlements in North Waziristan as ghost towns.

Among those who were left behind were the people who said they could not afford the transport fare to leave.

Those who left their homes were known as the “Internally Displaced”.

A 44-year old man said that for years he had been stuck between the military and militants. He said that the government should bomb houses, mosques, and markets only if it meant that the insurgents were eliminated. “We need peace after our sacrifices,” he said.

The displaced brought their pets along.

In the mosques, the imams used the loudspeakers to recite the Quran. They spoke to the people to console themselves and their congregation. They prayed to God for the safety of those who had remained behind.

“The fact remains that the casualties on both sides are Muslim”, said an editorial.

Official claims could not be confirmed by independent sources. The newspapers claimed that because the area was off-limits to journalists, it was impossible to verify the numbers and identities of the dead.


These stories are what stood out to me when I went through 51 articles published by DAWN and The Nation when Zarb e Azb began. I’m hoping to continue sharing what I find in my research. This project is an independent pursuit I’m taking on and definitely not the idea nor the focus of the research work I do at my university. If you have any suggestions (How about including hyperlinks?), questions (Why are you doing this?), or comments please go ahead and write to me.





These past months, you’ve disappeared behind your workload. You’re drawing up Buzzfeed-styled listicles for assignments, writing “soft news” stories for homework, and remaining dissatisfied with the reporting you’ve done. This isn’t why you are here, you keep telling yourself. And when your friend tells your that her friend asked about Makola, you’re stunned. Do your words matter enough to even be remembered?

This comes down to how you are remembered, doesn’t it.

When you die, it doesn’t end. Your memory lives on. And you are talked about in quiet words, over the phone, in person, and on airplanes. You’re remembered by the strangers. You’re discussed by those whom you were most familiar with. They don’t want to let go. And they never will. You’ll always be with them.

You’re just going to have to wait for the day when they catch up with you. You’ve gone on ahead and here in the mortal world, time ticks on. So you wait with patience and a calmness that only death can acquaint us with.

And the rest of us who remain are all trying to being those who are worthy of your acquaintance. We try to be loving, gentle, true. We try to embody sincerity. We don’t want to make this about us. This was never about us. This is larger than us. Larger than anything I’ve written about yet.

And when we are all gathered, we’ll recognize each other. So much will have altered.. so much will have regained its original, unfiltered, unmodified form. But we’ll know. That day, we’ll see each other as we really are… even when we did not try knowing ourselves, each other, or the One who made us all.

#KarachiLive: Pakistan Lights Up Snapchat

by Ayesha Nasir

Courtesy: Snapchat

Courtesy: Snapchat

ISLAMABAD – “It’s November 5th and the sun is still shining bright,” reported Adeeqa Lalwani smiling into the camera. “Welcome to Karachi.” There was no gunpowder nor any vendetta; Snapchat had unmasked Pakistan’s most populated city by documenting stories shot by its residents.

In what are known as Live Stories, Snapchat curates a stream of user generated and submitted images or videos. Termed by the Time magazine as “the company’s most unusual and compelling feature”, users are eligible to participate if they are located in the area and have allowed apps to access their device’s Location. The app’s support team clarifies that once a story is eligible, “it may be published and viewable by anyone.”

Through geographically determined content, Snapchat hopes to generate stories “told from a community perspective with lots of different points view.”

“I was super excited to have Karachi become a part of the city stories and have people around the world see us!” said Adeeqa Lalwani, a journalism student whose story was seen 4.18 million times. ” It was my celeb moment, yeah? I just wanted to be natural and show the routine we all follow in Karachi!”

Snapchat made the announcement a day earlier but the city of lights went live well into the afternoon.

Some users had difficulty participating in #KarachiLive due to power outages, poor internet connection, exams to study for, and busy schedules.

There were concerns voiced about mobile snatching as well.

“I am glad I was mad enough to drag my friend out of the house and go do a story,” said Eisha Salim, a media strategist whose Snapstory was one of the few which got selected. “The coastline is the main and possibly the biggest attraction of the city of Karachi. That is what my story focused on,” she said.

Courtesy: Snapchat

Courtesy: Snapchat

She deemed the effort worthwhile.

“Intiatives like these matter,” stated Salim who agrees that Snapchat can “help in breaking stereotypes and preconceived notions built around things.”

“Now the world knows what being a Karachite really is!” she said.

The quickly changing and developing story was paced to leave one breathless. Citizens were filmed crammed in a banned QINQI, sipping chai at dhabas, playing cricket on a rooftop, applying mehndi, cutting ribbons, making coconut oil, riding camels on the shore, and praying at the local masjid.

“I think it was good, despite the short length they had,” said Mushba Said a first-year communications major at Habib University. “It’s nice to see the good side of my city, but I wish we could see more.”

“I am not too surprised we mostly get the optimistic side of things,” said Scott Campbell, a professor at University of Michigan speaking about Snapchat as a “feel good” social media platform. “Not all of reality is captured and shared, and in that sense highly important aspects are left out of the picture (or video).”

Although Snapchat is coded with a self-destructive understanding about content being fleeting and temporary, the sort of crowdsourcing it has engaged is sure to have a lasting impression.

Karachi’s live story was preceded by Seoul, South Korea and followed by Hyderabad, India.

10 Muslim Women Who Don’t Need Saving

The conversation surrounding women who appear visibly Muslim is often based on perceptions which may not be grounded in reality. If we meet Muslim women who are currently walking the face of the earth, this conversation can change. Allow me to introduce you to a few of them.

1. Linda Sarsour

Source: Sam Hodgson/The New York Times

She’s in the news for all the right reasons. Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-born New Yorker, is on a mission to take on hate one headline at a time. Called “A Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab” by the The New York Times, Sarsour has been rallying Muslims of her community to speak up about #BlackLivesMatter, surveillance of mosques, and Islamophobia.

2. Amal Kassir

Source: Jeremy Stephen

She first made airwaves with her slam poetry on Syria where her lyrical verses spoke of a time when “we can eat together”, “build homes out of abandoned tanks”, and “sip from the cups made of old grenades.” As head of “Project More than Metaphors”, the Denver-based Amal Kassir is travelling the world to educate people about the conflict in Syria, help them stay connected with the stories of people there, and to keep reminding us to never forget.

3. Deena Mohamed

Source: Deena Mohamed

Creator of the web-comic “Qahera“, Deena Mohamed is an Egyptian graphic design student who took the internet by storm back in 2013. Her art has strong statements about sexual harassment in the streets of Egypt, stereotypes about Muslim women, misogyny in gender roles, and female revolutionaries whom she termed “the real superheroes”. With Qahera, audiences now have a female Muslim superhero who tackles real life issues in public spaces.

4. Noor Tagouri

Screengrab/OWN Media

Screengrab/OWN Media

Broadcast journalist Noor Tagouri is aiming to be the first hijabi news anchor on U.S. television. Tagouri has stated publicly that she doesn’t want to be forced to choose between her identity and her job. Having grown up on a steady diet of Oprah shows, Tagouri always wanted to be a journalist. She does not understand why a scarf on her head should prevent her from being one. And that’s why she’s speaking up about it.

5. Amina Elshafei

Source: Power House Museum

Dubbed as “the smiling chef”, Amina El Shafei is a pediatrics nurse who also happens to have won over audiences of Masterchef Australia. Her professional training as a nurse helped her remain calm in the stressful environment of the cooking competition. But rather like the recently crowned Great British Bakeoff winner, Nadiyah Hussain, El Shafei was not in the competition to represent Muslims or hijabis. When she was lugging a suitcase full of cooking books, she was just hoping to show the diversity of Korean and Egyptian cuisine, which is where the foodie in her is rooted.

6. Zainab bint Younus

Source: The Salafi Feminist

“Don’t speak for Muslim women. Speak to us,” says Zainab bint Younis. Self-identifying as The Salafi Feminist, Younis is a Canadian writer who threads her religious and political identity through her activism. Younis has penned a number of articles on issues surrounding marriage, divorce, youth, gender roles, and honour.

7. Maryam Amirebrahimi

Source: Maryam Amir

Having memorised the Qur’an and studied the effects of mentorship in high school students of colour, Maryam Amirebrahimi is on a roll. When it comes to religion and race, Amirebrahimi is actively seeking to break the cultural stigma surrounding difficult conversations within the Muslim community. Her study of Islam has led her to write compelling pieces on gender relations, misogyny, and what the Qur’an has to say about it.

8. Asmaa Hussein

Source: Asmaa Hussein

When her husband was shot and killed at a protest in Egypt, Asmaa Hussein was not silenced. The social worker took to the Internet to channel her grief, loss, and shock which had happened on a deeply personal level. By sharing what she is living through, Hussein is helping Muslim women see her loss as more than that of a widow. Now, Hussein is maintaining “Ruqaya’s Bookshelf”, a digital attempt to provide Muslim mothers with Islamic resources on parenting. She has authored a number of books meant for children, like her daughter Ruqaya.

9. Sara Filali

A taekwondo student, Sara Filali aspires to create an international platform where, regardless of their gender, Muslims can participate in sports. Filali was most recently awarded a gold medal at the International Martial Arts Festival. She was also crowned as Homecoming Queen at her high school.

10. Nadiya Jamir Hussain

Source: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/Love Productions

When the stay-at-home-mom showcased her baking at talent at the Great British Bakeoff, she was surprised to see the commentary surrounding her religion. But the show itself did not consider her faith as an obstacle. “It’s nice to be on a show where your skin colour or religion is incidental,” said Hussain in an interview with The Guardian. “For me, it’s important to instil in my children that they can do whatever they like, that no matter what their religion and colour, they can achieve what they want through hard work. And it’s nice to be able to do the same for a wider audience. If I have – amazing.”

I hear you, Nadiya.


Places to cry

  1. Where your mother gave birth to you
  2. In prayer
  3. At school
  4. At the airport
  5. Backstage
  6. In the audience
  7. During a lecture at university
  8. In the window-seat
  9. In front of a computer screen
  10. On Skype
  11. Before your mother’s empty room / full closet
  12. At the dining table
  13. The bathroom floor
  14. On the wrong bus
  15. In a crowd of people you may never see again
  16. At the voting booth
  17. Beside your brother, at your sister’s wedding
  18. In the house you spent most of your childhood in
  19. The terrace/corridor of the hostel
  20. Behind a newspaper
  21. In mid-conversation
  22. Between the pages of a book
  23. In the pause before the silence breaks
  24. With your back to the TV screen
  25. Crouched near the landline
  26. In your grandfather’s room
  27. Where you washed the dishes

Writing to Omar Khadr

for ok

“Atticus -” said Jem bleakly. He turned in the doorway. “What, son?” “How could they do it? How could they?” “I don’t know but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep.”

I wanted to write to you for a very long time but I found out you were having difficulty in reading. I did not want the letters to be read aloud to you by someone else.

For a very long time, I did not know you except through what I read about you. They didn’t treat you well and what hit home was that most newspapers didn’t report on you with kindness or even fairness.

They didn’t treat you well. Your eyesight was vanishing, and they wouldn’t get someone to look at it. They hurt you, mentally and physically, so that even your ownself became a stranger to you.

For a long time I wondered when was the last time you looked in the mirror. I saw a movie where a detainee handed over a mirror to the soldier who stood on the other side of the door. He didn’t hurt himself with it, as the soldier had thought he might. Nor did he hurt the soldier – she was safe, unlike what we the audience may have predicted.

In all these years, you allowed us to mirror you. You looked like a kindred spirit. But there was more to you which we didn’t know – they made it very difficult for us to see you or talk to you. They lied to us about what they did to you. Years later, they would be forced to release documents about what they did in the places they housed you and so many others. They summarised their area of expertise selectively and we were astounded even though what we underwent wasn’t surprise. It was the shock that our worst fears had been confirmed and backed up with people from the other side of of the door. It was a relief, perhaps, knowing that people would find the proof they needed to stand with you, with us, to cry out at what they did to you. But this is not about them. This is not about what they did to you.

That alone is not who you are.

You are more than what they did to you. Which is why I will keep writing about you, if not for you. So that someday, you will find these words and you may teach us of the truth in that which I’ve tried to mirror of you.

for she who died.

Two women were headed home in a white car. They were shot near a library by men on bikes. Four bullets to the daughter, two for the mother. The men who surrounded the white car were armed. They escaped. They ran away after doing what they set out to do.

The police responded by saying they are checking if surveillance cameras were installed near that place.

If none of this disturbs you, I don’t know what to say to you.

Lets forget for a moment who these women are and what causes they support. They were shot with the intention of killing.

They were innocent. We did not protect them.

Lets forget the fact that they were women. They were unarmed citizens who paid their taxes and were loved by those who knew them.

How could you do it, you who pulled the trigger? Not once, but six times at least.

Who provided you with the guns? Who taught you hate? Is this what they train you for? How do you swallow what you eat, when you know that you bought it with money that has blood on it?

What are we going to do about you?

What do you think Allah will do?

Rhythm of reporting

UPDATE: I’ve moved my the course blog here: (Apologies for any confusion!)

“Be a child again. Teach me poetry. Teach me the rhythm of the sea. Return to the words their initial innocence. Give birth to me from a grain of wheat, not from a wound. Give birth to me and take me back to a world before meaning, so I can embrace you on the grass. Do you hear me? A world before meaning. The tall trees walked with us as trees, not meaning. The naked moon crawled with us. A moon, not a silver platter, for a meaning. Be a child again. Teach me poetry. Teach me the rhythm of the sea.”

– In Presence of Absence, Mahmoud Darwish

I’m enrolled in a course called News Reporting and Writing. We are to run a newsroom of sorts  in which we are documenting our time together and what we learned from the stories we wrote. In pursuing an education – in the conventional and formal sense – one requirement of our teacher is to maintain journal entries. Our journals will be documenting our time working on the stories we seek or stumble upon. It is likely that my blog will be held to a scrutiny of a different kind and I am to ask you, reader, to be patient with my writing. It may grow colder and far too formal for any of us to recognise. What I can try and do is bring back the makola who would speak of the stranger things. Perhaps then, this assignment will be more of an attempt to educate not only my readership but also myself. That should be fun. I’m assigned the Campus beat where I’m to primarily work as an editor. My reporters have picked out stories they want to report on and I’m thinking of what good can come around if we begin to discuss, share and pass on what we have learned in our time here. Maybe our stories may never end up on the rundown of a major news organisation. Maybe we won’t ever be the subject of a headline, or even a shoulder. But regardless of that, I will try to share insights into this class. Perhaps someone out there will read it, seek what is good in it and make it a part of their life.


Interesting finds:

1. BBC’s news style guide (Shared by our teacher during this week’s class)

2. StoryCorps 414  My Name is Yusor (A podcast with Yusor Abu-Salha)

3. Dove’s campaign on “A mother’s body”

4. David Carr’s interview with Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Fdward Snowden


Dear stranger,

Were I to ask you to come, sit beside me, and tell me where I’m headed… would you? Would you know what to say? You probably would do a background check. You might start with the blogs I maintain, the words I scatter here and there without even bothering to remember that the Internet remembers.

You’d do well to draw a checklist of things I am and things I am not. Tick off what you find (missing) and then tally it all together. Weigh the positives and negatives. You’d do well to start with the good side – the part of me that everyone claims to cherish. That’s the part which I’m remembered with kindness. And then you’d go on to the darker, grayer area. You’d try to hold it up to the light and see if you are mistaken. But you aren’t mistaken. Rest assured. The darkness exists and like an x-ray scan, you’ve done well to try and spot where it is harming me, where the bones suffer.

I’m not asking you for a lot, stranger. The truth – that’s all I’m looking for. Kindness should not prevent you from being honest. Politeness cannot be the only basis of our sharing what is unarguably true. But if you wish to consider yourself kind or polite by pointing out my strengths and sharing my weaknesses, I would consider you honest. Truthful. Most importantly, brave.



The Midterm of November 2014

We had to attempt 16 questions in 2 hours. These were not questions you could give short answers to.  So the first thing I did was to divide the time I had per question by doing a small calculation.

Instead of keeping track of the time I had, I ended up being so engrossed in a couple of the questions that I didn’t have enough time to answer the remaining ones.

I had answers – correct ones – to almost all of them. I know it could have been done. Then why didn’t I devote enough time to the questions which remained?  Why didn’t I give the answers which I was aware of?  Why did I forget that I would run out of time? Was I confident that I could pull it off? That I’d  squeeze in everything? Should I not have done justice to the entire exam instead of certain questions only?

And that’s really what got to me. Which questions am I paying attention to and why. Which answers do I have ready.  Which answers am I most emotionally and physically investing in. Which are the answers I know to be true but I haven’t shared yet.

What’s stopping me? Is it the illusion that I have time?

The Invitation

by O. Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

“She did not seem to want to speak, or perhaps she was not able to, but she made timid motions toward Neville, holding something in her outstretched hand. 
“Again?” said Mrs. Longbottom, sounding slightly weary. “Very well, Alice dear, very well- Neville, take it, whatever it is…” 
But Neville had already stretched out his hand, into which his mother dropped an empty Droobles Blowing Gum wrapper. 
“Very nice, dear,” said Neville’s grandmother in a falsely cheery voice, patting his mother on the shoulder. But Neville said quietly, “Thanks Mum.” 
His mother tottered away, back up the ward, humming to herself. Neville looked around at the others, his expression defiant, as though daring them to laugh, but Harry did not think he’d ever found anything less funny in his life. 
“Well, we’d better get back,” sighed Mrs. Longbottom, drawing on her long green gloves. “Very nice to have met you all. Neville, put that wrapper in the bin, she must have given you enough of them to paper your bedroom by now…” 
But as they left, Harry was sure he saw Neville slip the wrapper into his pocket.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

finding stories in the rain

I envy people who find rain to be a perfect soundtrack for falling asleep. I cant. It sounds so beautiful, I dont want to miss it. Har boond aik kahaani hai. And these are stories I don’t want to forget.

dua of the traveller


“I leave you in the care of Allah, as nothing is lost that is in His care.”

This is a reminder

Breathe easier

Illustrated poetry: ‘Oh rascal children of Gaza’

there’s a part of me that knows Palestine like it knows Pakistan. this is the part which loves it in the deepest of my conscious memories.

there’s a part of me wanting to be there, not just in spirit, but there. really there. there to help. there to do good. there to babysit. there to wash the blood and nurse the wounds. there to be at the frontline. there because where else should i be. there where i am needed more than ever before. there in a house that was never their home. there in the place which even the walls cannot encapsulate. there where the sea was never a stranger. there where i feel no fear.


I am from there. I am from here.
I am not there and I am not here.
I have two names, which meet and part,
and I have two languages,
I forget which of them I dream in.
— Mahmoud Darwish