Rana Zormaty – Untold: Write Afghanistan

Rana Zormaty lives in Kabul, where she teaches Pashto to children. After studying Pashto Literature at Kabul University, she began to write, inspired by her own experiences; her father shared her love of reading, and would bring books and magazines home. Some of her stories have been published on Facebook and others locally. ‘I used to finish a novel in three days, and then I would think about that story for weeks’.

Bagri Foundation is proud to present, Rana Zormaty, our sixth writer featured as part of the project ‘Untold: Write Afghanistan’ supported by The British Council and Bagri Foundation.  Rana shares with us an excerpt of her story, ‘Haska’s Decision‘ alongside a  video which features some of her selected images and her reflections on what it means for her to be a writer, her process, and her inspiration.

Rana is Pashtun and writes in Pashto. For this video, she was asked to speak in Dari for ease of translation. 

‘Write Afghanistan’ is a project created by Untold, a development programme for writers in areas of conflict and post-conflict, that offers support to women writers and works remotely with them to develop and promote their stories which often remain hidden. Find out more about the project here.

Rana on her story: My character, Haska, dreamed of growing old with her beloved husband. However, when she is widowed, her brother-in-law is obliged to marry her. Haska is desperate not to follow this custom and, despite being illiterate, is determined to find another way to support her children.

Haska’s Decision

By Rana Zormaty

‘If Haska doesn’t marry me, I won’t pay her and her children’s expenses. She can sort them out herself’.

He looked furious as he left the house. Haska’s mother and father-in-law shook their heads and left. Her mother said quietly, ‘Do not play with your life. When a woman becomes a widow, she marries her brother-in-law – look at your neighbour, she married hers, and now she lives a happy life’.

Haska went back to her room empty-handed. She sat on the mattress, her back to the wall, her head between her knees, and cried her heart out. Jamal’s father, where did you go? Do you see me? The state I am in? You never thought about how my life would be without you. Why, Allah, why? Why did you take him from me? How shall I pay to feed my children? You could have taken me instead.

‘Mori, Mori, look at me’.

Haska looked at her daughter.

‘Are you crying?’

‘No, my dear. I am just exhausted’. 

‘Mother’, her son said. ‘I heard what my uncle said. If you do not marry him, who will be responsible for us? Who will feed us?’

‘Me, my darling baby. I will bake cookies for you’.

Haska went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. She looked at herself for a few seconds, and then turned on the tap and washed her face. She dried it with the corner of her scarf. I have to be happy, for the others. She smiled, left the bathroom and, when she came out of the door, saw her mother.

‘Young lady, why do you do this to yourself? Your sister-in-law, and parents-in-law, and brother-in-law – they will all humiliate you. Marry your brother-in-law. Then the children will have someone, and you won’t be scarf-less anymore’.

 ‘My dear mother, I don’t want a stepfather for my kids’.

 ‘Do you want to spend your whole life alone?’

‘I want to work’. 

‘You are illiterate – how can you work?’

‘I don’t know, but I will find work – any work – and earn money’.

 ‘Haska, no woman in our family has ever worked. And your in-laws – what will you do?’

Haska looked at her sleeping children and sighed sadly: ‘I will do something, even if I have to do people’s housework. I will do that’.

‘Haska. You have lost your mind. It is late – go to bed. But we will speak about it tomorrow’. 

She was awake the entire night, trying to think of a solution. Just before morning, she looked at the corner of her scarf and remembered that she had knotted into it some money. She opened the knot and started to count. She grew tearful. I know why you gave me some money – to keep for a bad day. And there is not a worse day than today.

Her daughter was talking in her sleep: ‘Uncle, please give me some cookies too’.

Haska touched her hair and said: ‘Sleep, my baby’.

After her daughter had settled, Haska woke her mother.

‘Mother, I found a way’.

 ‘What way?’

‘Mother, do you see this money? Jamal’s father gave me this, for a bad day’.


‘The children love the cookies I bake for them. I will buy the ingredients and make a batch, and you can take them to uncle Nadir’s shop. And when they are sold, I can make more’.

‘Who will buy them?’

‘Mother, this is all I can think of. Please, let’s try this, at least once.’

Her mother took the money, bought the ingredients, and returned them to Haska.

Before the day had fully started, Haska had made her cookies. She gave them to her mother and told her to take them to uncle Nadir’s shop. ‘We can share the profit’, she told her mother.

 –Translated from the Pashto by Negeen Kargar




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