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2. Where did the Pakistani military take you, and were there others there? by Tarfia Faizullah [poem]

January 2, 2012

Tarfia’s poems inspired from conversations with a number of women who were raped during the war, including the group of SUMS women from Sirajganj […]

There are many more of her wonderful verse here.

2. Where did the Pakistani military take you, and were there others there?
by Tarfia Faizullah

Past the apothecary shop, shut
down, burned flat. My heart

seized, I told it to hush. They saw
its shape and weight and wanted

it too. Past the red mosque
where I first learned to touch

my forehead low, to utter
the wet words blown from

my mouth again & again. Past
the school draped with banners

imploring Free Our Language,
a rope steady around my throat

as they pushed me toward the dark
room, the silence clotted thick

with a rotten smell, dense like pear
blossoms, long strands of jute

braided fast around our wrists.
Yes, there were others.

Following the end of Bangladesh’s Liberation War on 16 December 1971 […] all women who were raped were given the honorific term birangona by the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The term, which is often translated to war heroine, was meant to pay respect to the women for their sacrifices during wartime. Yet it soon became a mark of shame, with many of the women rejected by their families and ostracized by their communities upon their learning of the assault; […]

They have been outspoken against the social stigma associated with rape in Bangladesh, and maintain that they should be called mukti juddha, or freedom fighters, as those who fought in the liberation struggle are, rather than birangona. […]

That many women were captured and raped precisely because they were fighting for their country, spying within West Pakistani army camps, collecting information to relay back to fellow Bangladeshi guerrilla fighters. Yet they are not remembered as fighters. They are remembered as victims.

Read the entire article here.

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