Fahmida Riaz

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Fahmida Riaz
Born (1946-07-28) 28 July 1946 (age 71)
Meerut, UP, British India
Occupation Urdu poet, writer
Nationality Pakistani
Citizenship Pakistani
Literary movement Progressive Writers Movement
Notable works Godaavari
Khatt-e Marmuz
Notable awards Al-Muftah Award

Fahmida Riaz (Urdu: فہمیدہ ریاض‎) is a Progressive Urdu writer, poet, human rights activist and feminist of Pakistan. She is author of Godaavari, Khatt-e Marmuz, and Khana e Aab O Gil, the first translation of the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi from Persian into Urdu. The author of more than 15 books on fiction and poetry she has always remained at the center of controversies. When Badan Dareeda, her second collection of verse, appeared, she was accused of using erotic and sensual expressions in her poetry. The themes prevalent in her verse were, until then, considered taboo for women writers.[1] She has also translated the works of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Shaikh Ayaz from Sindhi to Urdu.

The poems from her collection Apna Jurm Sabit Hae reflect her homeland's experience under the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. By reputation, Riaz stands alongside Nazim Hikmet, Pablu Neruda, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Fahmida Riaz was born on 28 July 1945 in a literary family of Meerut, UP, of British India. Her father, Riaz-ud-Din Ahmed, was a educationist, who had been involved in mapping and developing the modern education system for the province of Sindh.[2] Her family settled in the city of Hyderabad following her father’s transfer to the province of Sindh.[2] Her father passed away when she was four and so she was brought up by her mother.[3] She learned about the Urdu and Sindhi literature in her childhood and after that learnt the language of Persian.[4] After completing her education she began working as a newscaster for Radio Pakistan.[3]

Fahmida Riaz was encouraged and persuaded by her family to step into an arranged marriage after the graduation from college. She spent some years in the United Kingdom with her first husband before coming back to Pakistan after a divorce. During this period she worked with the BBC Urdu service (Radio) and got a degree in film making. She has 1 daughter from this marriage.[2]

She has two children from her second marriage with Zafar Ali Ujan, a leftist impressive political worker.[2]

Work and Progressive Activism in Pakistan[edit]

Fahmida Riaz worked in an advertising agency in the city of Karachi before beginning her own Urdu publication Awaz. The liberal and politically charged content of Awaz grabbed the attention of the Zia era and both Fahmida and her husband Zafar were charged with various cases—the magazine shut down and Zafar was imprisoned.[3]

Fahmida Riaz on Censorship believes that "one should be totally sincere in one's art, and uncompromising. There is something sacred about art that cannot take violation. One should read extensively to polish expression. I read Platts' Urdu-Hindi to English Dictionary like a book of poems. I love words."[5]

She has asserted that "feminism has so many interpretations. What it means for me is simply that women, like men, are complete human beings with limitless possibilities. They have to achieve social equality, much like the Dalits or the Black Americans. In the case of women, it is so much more complex. I mean, there is the right to walk on the road without being harassed. Or to be able to swim, or write a love poem, like a man without being considered immoral. The discrimination is very obvious and very subtle, very cruel and always inhuman."[5]

Exile in India[edit]

Fahmida Riaz was faced with challenges due to her political ideology. More than 10 cases were filed against her during General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship.[1] She was charged with sedition under Section 124A of the Pakistan Penal Code.[6] After her husband was arrested she was bailed out by a fan of her works before she could be taken to jail and fled to India with her two small children and sister on the excuse of a Mushaira invitation. Her friend the renowned poet Amrita Pritam who spoke to then prime minister (late) Indira Gandhi which got her asylum.[6]

Her children went to school in India.[6] She had relatives in India and her husband later joined her there after his release from jail. The family spent almost seven years in exile before returning to Pakistan after Zia-ul-Haq's death on the eve of Benazir Bhutto's wedding reception. During this time Riaz had been poet in residence for Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi and it is during her exile that she learnt to read Hindi.[5] She was greeted with a warm welcome upon her return from exile.[1]

In the backdrop of concerns over rising intolerance in India she recited her recent poem 'Tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley' at a seminar called ‘Hum Gunahgaar Auratein’ on 8 March 2014 comparing the rising Hindutva in India and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan during Zia-ul-Haq regime.[7]

Selected Literary work[8][edit]

Her first poem was published in Funoon of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, when she was fifteen. Her first collection of poetry appeared at the age of 22.

Year Title Publisher
1982 Pathar ki Zaban Nai Awaz Jamia Nagar New Delhi
2002 Khatt-e Marmuz Aaj Ki Kitaben, Karachi
Kya tum poora chand na dekho ge
Gulabi kabotar
Badan darida
1999 Aadmi ki zindagi Aaj Ki Kitaben, Karachi
1998 Khulay dareeche se Vada Kitab Ghar,Karachi
Halqa meri zanjeer ka
Adhoora aadmi
Pakistan, literature and society
Qafle parindon ke
Ye Khana e Aab O Gil
2011 Sab Laal-o-Guhar Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore

Selected Poetry[9][edit]

Title Notes
ab so jao
baitha tha mere samne wo
chadar aur chaar-diwari
dilli teri chhanw
ek ladki se
ek raat ki kahani
ek zan-e-khana-ba-dosh
inqilabi aurat
is gali k mod par
kab tak
megh dut
pathar ki zaban
tafsil masafat ki
tiflan ki to kuchh taqsir na thi
tum bilqul hum jaise niklay recited at a seminar called ‘Hum Gunahgaar Auratein’ on 8 March 2014
us ka dil to achchha dil tha
zabanon ka bosa


Year Title by
2017 Hemmet Hellman Award for Resistance Literature[10] Human Rights Watch[10]
2005 Al Muftah Award for Literature: Poetry[11]
Sheikh Ayaz Award for Literature: Poetry[2] Government of Sindh[2]
2010 Presidential Pride of Performance Award for Literature: Poetry[12] Government of Pakistan[12]
2010 Sitara -e- Imtiaz on 23 March 2010[13] President of Pakistan[13] Civil Award



  1. ^ a b c d Sindhu, Amar (2013-09-14). "Herald Exclusive: In conversation with Fahmida Riaz". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Fahmida Riaz: The Progressive Writer and Poet of Sindh". Sindhi Dunya. 2016-04-07. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  3. ^ a b c "Fahmida Riaz - Profile & Biography | Rekhta". Rekhta. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  4. ^ "Fahmida Riaz". Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  5. ^ a b c thnsj. "The Hindu : Literary Review / Interview : `There is something sacred about art'". www.thehindu.com. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  6. ^ a b c "Pakistanis seek friendship with India: Fahmida Riaz". hindustantimes.com/. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  7. ^ "'You are just like us': Pakistani poet compares rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism". Firstpost. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  8. ^ "Urdu Books of Fahmida Riaz | Rekhta". Rekhta. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  9. ^ "Nazms of Fahmida Riaz | Rekhta". Rekhta. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  10. ^ a b "Ps". www.hrw.org. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  11. ^ "KARACHI: Fahmida Riaz honoured". DAWN.COM. 2005-07-20. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  12. ^ a b "Cabinet Division issues civil awards list - CSS Forums". www.cssforum.com.pk. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  13. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 

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