Legendary Women of Hazarajat

M. A. Gulzari |

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Legendary “Amma Sungari”

Progress can be achieved only when each member of the society performs their duty. In different parts of the world people have different ways of living. There are people who lead a comfortable and easy life and then are those who are faced with poverty and drudgery. There are many ways by which poverty can be eradicated, but no policy can be effective unless the people who are faced with the problems themselves come forward and collectively participate in projects being undertaken for their betterment. No project or plan can successfully be completed unless and until it has the support of the target group itself.

It is the wish of every group or area to lead a free and respectable life. To achieve this end those who strive and work sincerely with a missionary zeal are remembered. They become legendary figures and remain alive in the hearts of the people through folk lore.

In Central Afghanistan ( Hazarajat or Hazaristan )  women have  played a very effective role in the past and have now become legendary figures. The women contributed not only in their domestic duties e.g. traditional embroidery, agriculture , and livestock, calligraphy, politics and social welfare but have also earned fame in the battle fields fighting shoulder to shoulder  with men. Their achievements are remembered  till this date in stories and folk tales.

During the past 20 years, Afghanistan has faced external and internal political and socioeconomic wars, which have resulted in giving a complete blow to its social , cultural aspects of life. The Afghans, including the women, would have to strive hard to utilize  the full natural resources at their disposal in rebuilding the war torn Afghanistan. Women’s participation in nation building is extremely essential.

In central Hazarajat, there are sufficient resources available, but what is needed is the community’s full participation for effective utilization of these resources.

Women play an important part in building and shaping nations, and their position in a society is determined by the national, economic and cultural aspects of that society. It would be appropriate to say that the status of is determined by their men. In some societies women enjoy equal status with men, but to achieve this they have had to struggle a lot.

The human society is a combination of men and women and their joint struggle. Not only women are responsible for procreation, they have also contributed otherwise in the development  of the society.

In the days of antiquity, it as the women who planted seeds in the soil and grew plants etc. whereas the men folk went out for hunting.

Like other continents, Asia is general, South East Asia and central Asia in particular. There have been examples of women’s whose names are now part of history. In the developed countries, women’s role in achieving progress has been recognized, but in the developing countries, they have not been given their rights and their contribution and achievements are not given due recognition. If the potential and capability of half of the nation is not  utilized and is suppressed, then it is a loss for the nation.

According to Vale Donate:

“In the beginning of human society , the economic development was started by women. The men folk still used their tools for hunting. It was the women who started agriculture. She made ropes and later made cloth. It was she who created social life by introducing manners, traditional  customs and rites, thus she brought civilization itself”.

In our society especially in Pakistan and  Afghanistan, the potential of our women has not been fully utilized. In fact they have been suppressed under the garb of  religion, culture, customs and traditions.

 

THE WOMEN OF AFGHANISTAN

Like many other countries of the world the women of Afghanistan is have also been denied most of their basic rights. They cannot take independent decisions about their own future. Education is almost exclusively for menus it is thought unnecessary for women. Not only men but women also believe that women are inferior to men the common proverbs in this regard are:

“Women are mentally inferior ”

“She has no right to interfere in what the men do”

“If she is consulted in a case, the men should act contrary to her advice”

“Her opinion should not be taken”

“She should be treated as a  commodity, and should be beaten, as she is the root cause of all evils etc. “.

Although Islam gives women many rights e.g. at the time of marriage, her consent is taken, otherwise marriage is not legally contracted. But in Afghanistan these Islamic teachings are also ignored. The head of family arranges the marriage of women without seeking their consent.

During war between tribes , women were exchanged for the dead soldiers. The life for Afghanistan’s  women was full of hurdles. There are few women who came forward, sought knowledge, entered the field of politics and have come to be known for their valor  in the battle fields.

1)   Among these women is Ms. Rabia Balkh, who was the first poetess and acquired high education in Persian literature.

2) Jehan Malika was the daughter of Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, who was also a poetess 422 Hijri.

3)   Goharshad Agha was the wife of a Shah and was known for her active role in politics and social work. She constructed many mosques and school which include the Goharshad mosque in Meshad ( IRAN ), Masjid Goharshad, Herat (AFGHANISTAN), madressa  Dira, Herat.

4) Mehri Harvi was a contemporary poetess of Goharshad.

5) Agha Begum was a famous poetess during the period of Sultan Hussein Baiqra. She was the daughter of Amir Jalayeer. She used to encourage the poor poetess through moral and financial support.

In addition to the above, there are other famous afghan women e.g. Shah Jehan Begum, Aanober Aziza, Haleema Khushal , Haleema Bubo Jan, Ismat Begum, Fatima Sultan, Gohari Kabuli, Mehbooba Hervi.

During foreign invasions, the afghan women played a major role by fighting alongside their  men.

 

WOMEN OF HAZARAJAT

The mountainous region in Central Afghanistan is known as Hazarjaat (also called Hazaristan). Here the people are for centuries leading a tribal and feudal life. In 1893 the then prevailing system of Twaful Muki was taken over by the Kabul government, but the feudal and the tribal system continues.

Haji Kazim says,

“The predicament of women of Hazarajat was more or less like the other women of Afghanistan. However, they enjoyed more respect and domestic responsibilities as compared to other women.”

According to Umar Hayat Khan Afghani,

“It is amazing that the women of Hazarajat, though remote from culture and knowledge, enjoyed more respect  and were assigned many important roles, as compared to the women of other societies.

The pressure from Hazara society and the Islamic teaching have forced the Hazara women to follow their husbands in every possible way. It is not only true for the masses of the Hazaras, but also for  the families of Khans, Mirs and Arbabs. Cases like Bacon’s, Aghai of Daizangi do arise once in a while, but it is the men who dominate the Hazara interpersonal relationship between husband and wife. A Hazara mother is expected to fulfill two important roles in the Hazara society: First to raise the children, and second to manage the household affairs.

As time passed , the position of Hazaras has changed drastically. The Hazara women described by Harlan could not be found in today’s Hazara society. There is a noticeable change in the social and mental attitudes of the Hazara men towards their wives.

According to Harlan:

“The men display a remarkable difference for the opinion on their wives, especially on grave occasions, which impressed a stranger with surprise. When that difference is contrasted with the indifference and contempt, usually  prevailing among Mohammedans  in their treatment and opinion of their opposite sex! The sexes participate in the domestic responsibility and in the labors and pleasures of their conditions. Seclusion of the women is not practiced less dependence being placed on bolts and bars for the preservation of female virtue than is allowed to sense of prudence and the influence of honor. They address their wives with the respect and dignified tittle of Aga, which means master  and also mistress, as the word may refer to male or female. They associate with them as equal companions, arrogate no superior pretensions of preeminence, consult with them on all occasions, and in weighty matters. When they are not present, defer a conclusion until the opinions for their women can be heard. The women, in fact, are free from temptations, and that fact is a safe guard to chastity no less potent than the force of education.”

Harlan further noted that in Hazara society:

” … The wife and husband among the Hazara are inseparable in public affairs. She sits with her husband on the divan. Dressed like him and booted, ready for the chase of even a military foray! They would not go on a distance expedition, but in civil dissentions and in border difficult ties, to which their excursions are mostly confined, they generally participate. In both cases, both sexes use the fire lock expertly and accurately. They will gallop their unshod horses  over a precipitous deer path, regardless of danger, and bring down the game at full speed. Females of the poor manage the household  duties, assist in tending flocks, bringing in thorns, carrying water and all the hard laborious work.

The women of Mir Arbab (tribal chief) and other influential families participated in certain political affairs by advising  on politics .e.g. Mir Yazdan Baksh’s wife used to advise him on all matters relating to community welfare and politics. She also participated in wars, dressed up as male. And during Arghun Dynasty, Bibi Zarif Khanum, Mah Begum, Sultan Begum, Khanzada Begum, and Bibi Daulat were known for their giving expert advice on political issues.

LAILA:

Sayed Qadam’s wife was a very intelligent women. After her husband’s death till her son grew up , it was she who solved her nation’s community related problems.

When her husband Sayed Qadam (a tribal chief) died, she not only brought up her son Mir Qadam Naib but also advised her tribe on the social and community problems.

When Hassan Naib, became the chief, he came to be known as “Hassan Laila”after his mother. He was a brave and powerful chief. He fought bravely in battle against Amir Abdul Rehman. He got killed in the battle, but he would be remembered by the people of the region. The fort of Hassan Laila was burnt by the soldiers of Amir Abdul Rehman, however,  its traces and remnants can still be seen. Hassan Laila had a sister who also inherited her mother’s intellect and maturity.

 

GUL CHAMAN AGHAI:

She was the daughter of Mir Yousaf Baig Shehristan. In the absence of her father, Gul Chaman solved the problems related to the community or politics.

 

FOREIGN INVASION AND PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN:

During the foreign invasion in Afghanistan the women folk remained equipped and also fought against the enemy for the defense of their country. The valor of many women has become almost proverbial. Mohammed Miro’s daughter and Sayed Ahmed Shah Noor’s sister, Amma Sanghari, was one of the brave fighters. Her real name was Gul Begum but because of her courage and bravery, she came to be known as Amma Sanghari (Sanghari is the person who is always at the forefront of the battle).