Book Launch of The Red Ribbon
Book Launch of “The Red Ribbon”
by Sandya Institute
Abdul Samad Haidari is a Hazara-Afghani poet and journalist. He worked as with The Daily Outlook Afghanistan and The Daily Afghanistan Express and served with International Medical Corps (IMC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Action Aid, and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). He is a certified translator/interpreter (Cairo American University), a teacher and human rights activist… a member of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC). Abdul Samad has been living in Indonesia as a refugee under UNHCR protection since 2014.
Abdul Samad has been able to express his heart-breaking life experiences through his writing of poetry. His first collection of poems, the Red Ribbon, is based on his experiences escaping conflict in Afghanistan and subsequent forced settlement in Indonesia. The book title originates from a poem he wrote that describes the murder of his sister, Hakima: as she lies there on the floor of their home – dead – Abdul Samad takes the red ribbon from her hair; he and family other members had to quickly escape the attack targeting their village of Dah Mardah-e-Gulzer, in the Arghandab locale in Zabul territory – one of the most dangerous areas in the northwest of Kandahar.
The pain of being away from the home country he was born in and losing his loved ones forms the major content of his book. Despite that, he still has the hope of continuing with life and welcoming a better tomorrow, this while fighting with both diagnosed high-levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression.The poetry traces the excruciating pain of sorrow and death when escaping conflict, and so also tells the shared experiences of many refugees, who are forced to save themselves during times of war and persecution.
Abdul Samad was supported by UNHCR’s Ibu Ratih Josthy Mautanha, Sandya Institute’s former Director, Diovio Alfath, lawyer Adil Surowidjojo, Tiro Daenuwy (JRS), Illustrator Cindy Saja, and Dr. Ross Dunn (poetry book’s Editor and also now Foster-Father to Abdul Samad) to publish his book with Gramedia. The narrative reveals that many refugees are leading desperate lives and lacking hope about their future. Needless to say that refugees are groups of diverse individuals filled with their respective aspirations and expertise; however, the current legal and community structure in Indonesia greatly limits their mobility and productivity in contributing to society.
Afghanistan’s Representative to Indonesia, H.E. Ambassador Faizullah Zaki, opened the book launch, and stated in his opening remarks that “As this book is very traumatic, very honest, very sincere, full of truth, it makes you feel deep pain and sorrow and suffering. Haidari’s generation is not the only, I think, two generations have suffered the same.” He talked of a hope that the conflict would end.
The book launch took place at The Goethe-Institute on Sunday 23 February; the poets Seetha G., Carissa Putriziandra, Janice Whyne, and Ruby Astari each read one of Abdul Samad’s poems and also an original poem from their own works. Coming together as individuals to form a compassionate community was the dominant thematic concern: encountering pain and countering pain together.The fabulous author, Ayu Utami, spoke about the need for freedom to express ideas, and by doing so, ideate and build a better future for us all. Putra Aditya was a brilliant MC for the event, which was attended by numerous people, including Abdul Samad’s former women refugee students from Bogor, where he taught English at a Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Learning Center, Edward Davies, the President of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC), which Abdul Samad is a member of, Ambassador Pam Dunn from the Aotearoa/New Zealand Mission to ASEAN, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon from the Indian Mission to ASEAN, Sulaiman Sawary, Director of Mercy Corps, Yuli Ismartono from Lontar, along with many others.
The Head of UNHCR, Ann Maymann, delivered remarks that emphasized identification with the ‘other’, with refugees who need all of our help; she stated,
“We are first and foremost here to celebrate Abdul’s talent for writing. And with the publication of his poems in book form, it is a much needed manifestation of what refugees bring to the world when they are allowed to, when they are encouraged to, and when they are given the space, and the opportunities to do so. Unfortunately, in many countries refugees are forced to be waiting, waiting for society to take them in and give them just a minimum of rights to live a decent and dignified life. Refugees are waiting to be allowed to show that they are not a burden and that they can contribute to the society and the community they live in.
Ann Maymann also shared,
“We are also celebrating today the power of Art. Art can create emotions and empathy and in today’s world it is very much needed. The hate against the other, against what is foreign and unfamiliar is constantly gaining new proportions. Hate crimes from the extreme right are on the rise. The fight against those poisonous ideas about how our societies should be is a very tough one but it is one we cannot afford losing. And art is an important ally in this fight. Art can show us what could be. Art has the power to inject new ideas in society and change mindsets. At the human-to-human level, art can also create empathy and understanding about the other, about the unknown and unfamiliar. Reading through Abdul’s poems is heart-bleeding while it is uplifting at the same time. Tales of loss, fight, and strength run through those pages, and his little sister’s Red Ribbon is accompanying us along the way.”
We end with a poem by Abdul Samad Haidari:
Before I fall apart
I know how you hate me
and turn your face away,
ignoring my misery,
forbidding me to stay.
You want to shut me out,
to shut me down,
to shut me up,
but I must ensure truth
sings like an arrow to your heart...
so that you might love
and care again before I fall apart.
I am not a threat to you,
a threat neither to you
nor to your daughter –
a threat neither to your civilization,
nor to your religious beliefs.
I am not going to steal your faith,
nor do I intend to steal your job.
I am seeking your human love
and warmth to heal me,
because I’m exhausted,
broken and disappointed...
even afraid to hope...
my fuel tank is dry on empty promises.
I’m caged and afraid of freedom;
threatened, scared to live;
devalued to such an extent
that I have learned to unlike myself.
I’m afraid even to ask for
a better tomorrow for me,
for my family and for others suffering.
At times, I long to breathe my
own ashes in a silent oblivion.
I only seek warm hands,
hands of compassion...
to be far from violence and bloodshed
in a safe and loving place,
where they can’t hurt me
and my family anymore.
I need a safe space to be at peace.
I need some time to be fixed;
I need someone to mend me,
show me mercy,
for there is little strength
left to run barefoot much further.
September 26, 2018
N.B. The Red Ribbon can be bought at most bookstores, including Gramedia (mainly at Grand Indonesia branch) and Kinokuniya outlets.