Traditional poetry is revived as Taliban retreat

Pashtun refugees from north-western Pakistan are rediscovering traditional verse, which was banned when the Taliban took over North Waziristan.

For more than 1,000 years, Pashtun poets have recited verses, drawing on the mountainous scenery, local culture and love as their inspiration. But when the Taliban arrived in 2001, poets were warned that their verses must only carry jihadist messages about war, violence and martyrdom.

The refugees have been temporarily displaced while the army attempts to clear the area of militants. But while many are enduring difficult living conditions – staying with relatives or sleeping in schools in neighbouring provinces – traditional poetry has seen a revival.

“It was so horrible for me, like a nightmare, when they approached me for the first time to make words about slaughtering innocent people part of my poetry,” 38-year-old Saleem Khan told The Washington Post.

Khan is now composing poetry about his life as a refugee.

Army leaders say that the drive to remove the Taliban is progressing well,  with the Pakistani government hoping that the refugees will be able to return home in the autumn.


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