The Paranda network

The Paranda Network is a three-year partnership of co-operation between KfW Stiftung and Untold to enhance the craft of creative writers working in Dari and Pashto, as well as to develop a network of local Afghan writers and those living in the diaspora.

Paranda is a virtual space where these writers can share skills, knowledge, and life experiences with their peers. It consolidates Untold’s active – but so far informal – online community of women writers, established through its Write Afghanistan project.

The political upheaval of 2021 has meant many Afghan writers have resettled in other parts of the world, yet the Paranda network enables them to continue working as a group. 

The Collective Diary

Since the Taliban retook control of Aghanistan in August 2021, the women writers in the Paranda Network have stayed connected via a secure messaging app. For the first year of Taliban rule they shared their stories in the form of diary style exchanges between each other. These short, poignant entries in Dari and Pashto are very real glimpses – from emerging literary voices – of daily life from the women’s perspective. 

Read extracts from the Diary as published in the Financial Times and reprinted in The Week to mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul in August 2022. Excerpts have also been published in literary journals in Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. 

My Dear Kabul

A year in the life of an Afghan women’s writing group (Hodder/Coronet) 

The Untold team has also worked with Afghan women writers to turn their collective diary into a book for adult readers, in translation. Hodder/Coronet will publish My Dear Kabul: A year in the life of an Afghan women’s writing group, in August 2024. We read how this group of women watched cities fall, schools close, families change and freedoms disappear. This now disparate writers’ group continues to stay connected, and their online community marked the start of Untold’s Paranda network.’

This now disparate writer’s group continues to stay connected, and their online community marked the start of Untold’s Paranda network.


New Fiction by Afghan Women

“Powerful, profound and deeply moving, these stories will expand your mind and elevate your heart”

Elif Shafak

Stories by 18 writers from the Write Afghanistan project are published in My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women (MacLehose Press).

My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. These writers tell stories that are both unique and universal – stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions; with an Introduction by Lyse Doucet.

Published in the USA, and in translation in Korea, Ukraine and Japan. Shortlisted for the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature 2022.

“This book is a precious collection of work, the first and maybe last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment”

Monique Roffey, Author of The Mermaid of Black Conch

“As the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan grows, with millions at risk of starvation, it seems more important than ever to read the work of these courageous writers”

Financial Times

“This book is like a little light shining into the lives of women in Afghanistan… a beautiful read”

Jo Brand

Weiter Schreiben partnership

Since 2020, Untold has partnered with Weiter Schreiben, a literary platform based in Berlin, for authors from war and crisis zones. This collaboration offers writers from the Paranda Network an opportunity to be commissioned and published in German.

Weiter Schreiben has re-published several stories from the anthology My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird on its platform in German.

Nine of Untold’s writers have also taken part in Weiter Schreiben’s letter exchange programme, where an Afghan woman writer is paired with an established German author, for an exchange of letters, emails and mentorship.  These exchanges are then published in German. 

The Untold-Weiter Schreiben partnership is supported by KfW Stiftung

Weiter Schreiben Magazine

Untold and Weiter Schreiben continue to work together to promote and develop Afghan women writers. In October 2022, Weiter Schreiben released the fourth edition of their annual magazine, which showcases work from Untold’s Write Afghanistan programme and includes interviews with its writers. The magazine celebrates the voices of Afghan women authors who tell stories of oppression, violence, and exile but also of sisterhood, silver high heels and the power of words.

To celebrate its publication, Untold writers Batool HaidariNaeema Ghani, and Marie Bamyani, and Director Lucy Hannah joined Weiter Schreiben for a live event, hosted by supporter, KfW Stiftung in Villa 102, Frankfurt on 17th October 2022. The event was delivered in in English and German, with simultaneous translation in Dari.

Helen Wolff Grants

In September 2022, 19 of Untold’s writers were awarded Helen Wolff grants to support their work. The grants were set up by descendants of Helen & Kurt Wolff to support politically persecuted women writers. These grants were administered by Weiter Schreiben and Untold’s writers were the first to receive them.

The grants helped these writers to buy laptops and encouraged them to keep writing.

New writing from Paranda

Read the latest articles and short stories written by Afghan women writers from the Paranda Network.

Supported by

Project Team

Lucy Hannah – Project Director


Lillie Razvi Toon – Project Manager

Lillie is Project Manager of the Paranda network. She has worked at Untold in previous years as an Assistant Editor and Project Coordinator on the Write Afghanistan project. Lillie has previously worked as admin & network’s assistant at REDRESS, an assistant producer at Wimbledon BookFest, and researcher at New Black Films. Lillie works at the intersection between literature and human rights.

Sunila Galappatti – Editor

Sunila has worked with other people to tell their stories, as a dramaturg, theatre director, editor and writer. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Live Theatre, Kali Theatre and Raking Leaves.  Most recently, Sunila has worked as a fiction and non-fiction editor with Commonwealth Writers and as Consulting Editor at Himal Southasian.  She was Director of the Galle Literary Festival (2009 & 2010) and is the author of A Long Watch, which retells the story of a prisoner of war in the Sri Lankan conflict.

Parwana Fayyaz – Translator

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1990, Parwana was raised in Quetta, Pakistan. She earned both her B.A. in 2015, with a major in Comparative Literature (with Honours) and a minor in Creative Writing (Poetry) under the supervision of late Eavan Boland, and her M.A. in Religious Studies in 2016 from Stanford University. She then moved to Cambridge University to pursue a PhD in Persian Studies at Trinity College in September of 2016 and completed a thesis titled, ‘Poetry and Poetics: the Sufi Eye and the Neoplatonic Vision in Jāmī’s Salāmān va Absāl’, in 2020. She took up a junior research fellowship as the Carmen Blacker Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge University in October 2020.

Zarghuna Kargar – Project Advisor

Zarghuna is an award-winning journalist for BBC World News, based in London. She produced and presented the BBC Afghan Woman’s Hour and is the author of Dear Zari, The Secret Lives of Women in Afghanistan (2012), a book that reveals the secret lives of women across Afghanistan and allows them to tell their stories in their own words. She has dedicated most of her journalistic career to working for and with Afghan women, reporting and writing their stories. She also wrote Amina’s story, in 2013’s Girl Rising documentary. Zarghuna speaks Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu.

Allia Popal – Interpreter

Allia worked as a judge in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2021 and now lives in the UK, where she is a volunteer with Safe Passage Legal Route, where she assists vulnerable Afghan children, using her interpretation skills to navigate complex legal processes. She’s a part-time interpreter for Untold Narratives, while she prepares for her solicitor’s qualifying examination (SQE) with BARBRI.

Dr Zubair Popalzai – Translator

Zubair is a Pashto, Dari and English language translation and interpretation professional with more than 20 years’ experience. He is a consultant translator for BBC Monitoring and has worked as an interpreter for United Nations special envoys in politically and militarily sensitive environments in South Asia. He also works as a legal interpreter at solicitors’ offices, tribunals, immigration detention centres and police contexts in the UK.

Dr Negeen Kargar – Translator

Negeen is a translator, writer, and research scientist. She has translated and interpreted for the Guardian, Channel 4 and BBC Radio, and is an associate member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Patrick Spaven – Monitoring and Evaluation

Patrick is Technical Lead at Global MEL Contract, Conflict Stability and Security Fund. He is also an independent consultant and practitioner in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) and Theory of Change (ToC), and Visiting Fellow at Manchester University. He works mainly in international development and in building MEL systems in governments, organisations, grant funds and programmes.

Homa Salehyar – Translator

Homa has worked as a research assistant with Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and for international media as a remote translator from Dari to English for more than 12 years. Following Afghanistan’s power transition in 2021, she migrated to the UK. Since 2023, Homa has been translating to/from Persian/Dari and English for Thebigword and Untold Narratives in the UK.” 

Azadeh Parsapour – Editor

Azadeh Parsapour is a publisher and freedom to publish advocate. She is the managing director of Nogaam Publishing, using crowdfunding to publish Iranian censored authors. Nogaam supports and empowers Iranian authors and translators, advocates freedom of speech, promotes Persian-language digital publishing and provides easy access to the invaluable books for Farsi readers. Parsapour is also the founder ofTehran Book Fair, Uncensoredan annual book fair for books published outside of Iran by Iranian independent publishers. In addition to her publishing activities, she has also worked as a translator and researcher for different projects and organisations that defend digital rights and internet freedom. 

Katherine Skala, Editor

For twenty-five years Katri has worked as a writer, editor, mentor and senior arts administrator. Her last novel,A Perfect Mother, was published in 2018, and she is in the process of completing her latest book,The First of All Pleasures. Through her involvement with the National Centre for Writing, she has mentored writers of fiction and non-fiction. She edited the literary journalPretext at UEA. She was the founding programme director of ‘New Writing Worlds’, an international writers’ gathering in Norwich when the National Centre for Writing was first established.  

Natasha Alam Mahsud, Translator

Natasha Alam Mahsud, is a translator from Pakistan and currently a PhD. student at University College London,  her research aims to explore the formation of a postwar community of care among Mahsuds, ethnic Pahstuns, focusing on women’s agency. Expanding knowledge about the lives of Pashtun women and how their domestic activities and participation in fun and leisure in urban areas shape tribal Pashtun identity. Reflecting the move towards cities and increased access to education and jobs to contribute to household income, challenging traditional views on gender roles and larger assumptions of the strictness and unyielding practices of Pashtun patriarchal norms and culture.  

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