Since Oct. 7, 2023, the world has borne witness to an unfathomable tragedy—an ongoing, horrific genocide of the Palestinian people. The heart-wrenching toll is immeasurable, with countless Palestinian children and women falling victim to the relentless violence, leaving families shattered and communities in despair.
Brave Palestinian journalists, undeterred by the immense challenges, have paid a heavy price for their commitment to revealing the truth, targeted in airstrikes that often yield fatal consequences. In the midst of this devastation, Palestinian men tirelessly dig through mountains of rubble, risking their lives to rescue those trapped beneath the remains of destroyed buildings.
The cultural fabric of Gaza, rich with heritage, art, and literature, now lies in ruins, erased by the devastating impact of the conflict. The enormity of this loss echoes far beyond the physical destruction, casting a somber shadow over the very essence of Palestinian identity and history. The world stands witness to a profound human tragedy that demands empathy, understanding, and urgent efforts for peace.
ZUKA Books, a Pakistani publishing platform based in Lahore, founded by journalist Mehr F. Husain, issued an open call in December 2023 for a project titled Koi Hai: Letters To Palestine. The idea was to take a stand for Palestine through the written word, an indication that ultimately the power of the pen is stronger than that of force.
“What convinced me of the necessity of taking such a stand were three things: One was a video of a Palestinian woman who cried out if anyone was there to help them—I couldn’t forget that cry. Then there is the brave young journalist, Motaz, who has been covering the genocide (through his social media platform), and recently asked if there is anyone who cares about them and if anyone thought about his feelings—I can’t imagine that state of isolation,” said Husain.
“And finally, the Holocaust itself. Bedrich Fritta was an artist who found himself in a ghetto in Terezin. He secretly drew pictures of the ghettoes as a form of documentation of the inhumane reality there, compiled into a book titled Tomickovi after his toddler son who survived. That is when I knew I had to do this. What do the Palestinians have to express their suffering? They’ve either been killed or maimed. Do they not have a right to tell their stories? Who will document their pain? We can only be their witnesses,” she said.
Woven with notes, essays, letters, poems, stories, illustrations, and translations of Palestinian poets’ creations into regional languages, and featuring submissions from Dubai, England, Pakistan, and India, the book emanates compassion and empathy. Palestinian poetry is eloquently translated into Urdu, Seraiki, and Persian, creating a rich mosaic. Minhaj Ahmed Rafi contributes to this literary tapestry with his skillful touch, evident in the thoughtful design of the cover. Emphasizing that this endeavor was not driven by commercial motives and yielded no financial gains, Husain underscored its pure essence as an act of solidarity. It stands as a poignant written declaration, a heartfelt protest against the ravages of war.
An e-version of the book will also be available on Ananke’s website, owned by Sabin Muzaffar, founder of the world’s first MENA and South Asia focused digital literature festival called Women In Literature.
“I think it is remarkable and definitive of the contributors who are from Britain, Dubai, Pakistan and India that not a single submission expressed any form of hate for Jews or Judaism,” the publisher stated. “What moved me was the gentleness of language, the tenderness with which everyone approached the topic, really upholding the message of humanity and respect for life for all. I’m tremendously grateful to all the contributors.”