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: http://www.ayeshanasir.blogspot.com (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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/news-style-guide (Shared by our teacher during this week’s class)

2. StoryCorps 414  My Name is Yusor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTES5Hr41sE&feature=youtu.be (A podcast with Yusor Abu-Salha)

3. Dove’s campaign on “A mother’s body” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuNBduVqX4Y

4. David Carr’s interview with Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Fdward Snowden http://timestalks.com/laura-poitras-glenn-greenwald-edward-snowden.html


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