Issue 001

Strangling the Serpent


Rachel Lim
The River


Brandon Chu
Anatomy of a Woman


Heba Khan


Niranjana Nambiar
Aurat March
Zainab Nadeem
What Does the Past Hold?


Aiman Ashraf
Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You


Meegan Lim


Rawand Mustafa
No Means No


Wasfa Kamal
I’m Not a Virus


Malaika Qadeer
Malcom X


Rawand Mustafa


 Rawand Mustafa

Created by and for youth.

The Matchstick is Amnesty Canada’s Arts & Lit magazine, dedicated to raising awareness of human rights violations and the experience of young human rights defenders who meld their activism with their craft.

Our inaugural issue features the personal expressions of youth artists and poets who respond to the world as it exists today and envision a more just, equitable, and free future.

We offer you The Matchstick as a reflection of youth human rights advocacy today and a creative archive of global solidarity.

-The Matchstick Team

長江 The River

He stood along the edge of the Long River.

The Dragon of the basin told him: 

    Drink from the river. Don’t think about the tears that fell in Havana.

He drank from the bitter waters of the Long March.

He tasted the tears of the Strait.

He tasted the ichor of the Yalu.

He felt the sand of the delta between his lips.

But he did not see the tears of Havana, nor did he hear the screams from Surabaya.

He waded through the waters of the Long River.

The Dragon of the shores told him: 

    Bathe in the river. Don’t think about those you left in Hokkien.

He bathed in the bloody waters of the Long March.

It was necessary, the river whispered.

It was so we could be free, the river thundered.

It was a war against the imperialists, the river crashed.

But all he felt were the tears of the Hokkien boy.

Who was left in the bloody waters of the revolution.

He swam in the deeps of the Long River.

The Dragon of the channel told him: 

    Plunge into the river. Don’t think about those who have drowned for our kingdom.

He soaked in all the seeds of discord that slept under the covers of the river bed.

We are the people of Tang, who will always have a place to call home in a land that drove us away.

We are the children of the eternal flame and the yellow emperor.

We will always have our history, under a ruler that writes their own.

We were told we lived under a benevolent god, we were told the Dragon loved us.

As his lungs overflowed with the Dragon’s breath he finally realized — 

The Dragon did not love him and the red banks of the Long River were covered in his blood.

Anatomy of a Woman

i. A crown of ebony tendrils entwined with the poetry spilling from half-scribbled poems,

dancing with the dust rising from the wings of a moth seeking the light—

ii. Eyes, wide, burning with the fire of ilm, devouring the ink engraved on the scrolls of destiny, unapologetically arresting the gaze – an embrace – of ishq. These are not the windows to her soul but a portal to the castle of her poems, where golden tapestries of dreams are gleaming in the silver gleam of a marble moon. 

iii. Gardens have become graveyards on her tongue where languages have withered in the wait of being spoken but the tongue,

a blade, has slain all the words that tried to escape for fear that the web of faith will disintegrate.

iv. Chambers being painted in the hues of hope,

leading to doors that refused to grow to accommodate the tides of the Red Sea that split for Moses but drowned her in the mercy captured therein.

v. The womb— equal parts home and warzone, a battlefield of bloodshed that births an amputee or a martyr but both are her honour because kindness in her genes is compassion in her chromosomes

Ilm: knowledge

Ishq: devotion, the most passionate love

Aurat March


Wearing a crown of rusty iron, gold plated
Shouting “human rights”
The irony, the hypocrisy run wild.
And without a dollop of shame
Interfering constantly with the peace of other nations.


Do you see the history of oppression?

Again, and again it repeats itself
Showing its ugly head.
Cowering now, dripping in humiliation
Threatening to show its military power.
Follow now very closely
Things have come around ten folds higher
From what went around heartlessly.


Now say, what are your answers

To the world’s burning questions?
Pinned under a foot of unruly power
An innocent man suffocates.
Suffering the longest minutes of cruelty
Pleading the sire of unruly power
Begging for life, for mercy.


They raise their heads only
When beneath the cop lay
The corpse of the man
Whose life could have been saved.


Themis; patron goddess of justice

Scale impartially, raise your sword
See below you, this scorched, divided world.
I beg of you, serve the innocent humans
With justice as you do
In your objective, own accord.

What Does the Past Hold?

ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

Yesterday did you 

hear that mother’s lamenting screech? 

whose darling children 

your ego’s bullets 

left riddled, bleeding 

And now who is to tell her 

of those homes and cradles, in thousands, ruined 

emptied forever


Why must I not shout? 


Why, must I not shout, 

As if each mother bore new life

as prey for the hate you sowed

And you ask 

What does the past hold?




Regretfully, my pen 

scribbles the truth, page upon page, 

that you prefer to read 


Even today I am ensnared by these chains 

And no more than a puppet who 

with eyes closed 

when walks 

finds her feet wrapped-chained-bound in your laws 

And, again, falls 

And you ask 

What does the past hold?


Even today 

I am the slave of that freedom, I dream of 

And – still, you ask 

What does the past hold?


Mister! It teaches us life


Our backs and walls 


Telling us of your political yarns 

that keep on spinning

Bangles broken, that lie in the street 

ask reproachfully, 

“Where is your neighbour’s house?” 

“The one where the Hindus once lived?” 

Where have these questions disappeared? 

dissolved in the mist of a history you created? 

The stench of it lingers.

Wafting from the corners even as the questions dissipate 

and you ask 

What does the past hold?


In the annals of history, my name 

tears, wears, and loses its shape 

as your venom drips down my throat 

snapping my spirit away 

Rendering me voiceless, helpless 

And quietly, silently, you expect me 

to drink the poison prepared? 

Will you have satisfaction only then? 



Whose ghosts linger on in these streets, even today 

Wandering here and there 

Lost and chained 

And you ask 

What does the past hold? 


Today, I shall set my English aright 

And shrink my tradition, so it can comprehend within 

the definitions of your confined dictionary 

and I, myself, can learn ‘my own culture’, you say 

And – still, you ask 

What does the past hold?


The next step is for you to take

And for you to answer 

With closed eyes and veiled truths, 

How can we possibly move on? 

And this ‘freedom’ 

For which us women have always been parted and suffered 

What is it?

Translated into English by:

Muhammad Khurram
Women and Gender Studies
Erasmus Mundus Masters

کیا تم نے کل

اس ماں کی چیخ پکار سنی؟

جس کے لخت جگر کو

تمہاری انا میں پھنسی گولیوں نے

چھلنی کر دیا؟

اب اسکو کون بتلاۓ

کہ ان هزاروں اجڑی گودوں کو

وه لعل دوباره نہ ملے گا

میں کیونکر نہ چلاؤں؟

میں کیونکر نہ چلاؤں 

کہ ان ماؤں نے یہ جنم

تمہارے بوۓ بیجوں سے اٹھنے والے تنازعات کی نزر ہونے کو

ہرگز نہ دیے تھے

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟


افسوس کہ میرا قلم

تمہارے کاغزات میں وہی لکھنا چاہتا ہے

جو تم پڑھنا چاہتے ہو۔

میں آج بھی زنجیروں میں جکڑی

اس پتلی کی عکاسی ہوں

جو آنکھیں بند کیے

جب قدم اٹھاتی ہے

تو تمہارے تہہ شدہ اصولوں کے بوجھ کی ضد میں آکر

پھر گرپڑتی ہے

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

میں آزادی کے اس خواب کی

آج بھی غلام ہوں

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

جناب، یہ زندگی سکھاتا ہے۔

ہماری پیٹھ اور دیواریں

چلاتی ہیں،

اور تمہارے سیاسی کھیل کی

روداد سناتی ہیں

تمہاری گلی میں ٹوٹی چوڑیاں

سوال کرتی ہیں

اس ٹوٹے گھر پر

جو تمہارے ہمسائے میں ہوا کرتا تھا

جہاں ہندو آباد تھے۔

نہ جانے یہ سوالات کہاں گم ہو گۓ

تمہارے کیے کی گھن

آج بھی وہاں سے آتی ہوگی

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

تم تاریخ میں میرا نام

اپنے کڑوے جھوٹوں کی گندگی سے بھر دو

اور میرے حلق میں اتار دو

اور میں اسے چپ چاپ نہ نگلوں

تو کیا یہ بات تمہیں ہضم ہوگی؟


اس کے جنات تو آج بھی تمہاری گلیوں میں منڈراتے ہیں۔

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

آج میں اپنی انگریزی کا تلفظ درست کرتی ہوں

کہ یہ سب تمہاری ڈکشنری میں تحریر کرده تعاریف میں سما سکیں

گر خود مجھے میری “تهزيب” سکھا سکیں۔

اور تم کہتے ہو

کہ ماضی میں کیا رکھا ہے؟

چلو اگلا قدم تم ہی اٹھاؤ

اور تم ہی مجھ کو بتلاؤ

کہ یوں آنکھیں بند کئے

حقیقت پر پردہ ڈالے

 آگے کیسے بڑھا جاتا ہے؟

اور یہ’ آزادی ‘

کیا ہوتی ہے؟

Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds you




People also ask: 

Is Syria a safe country? 

What is the problem in Syria? 

How many people have died in Syria? 


Croo-Doo-Doo-Doo, Croo-Doo-Doo-Doo: Laughing Dove Sings Sunrise 

Grisly Killing in Syria Spawns Legal Case Against Russian Mercenaries 

Slinking Stray Scales Garden Ledge, Shadow-Dappled through Lemon Leaves 

Government Attack on Hospital in Northwestern Syria Kills 6 

Pink-Kissed Pistachio Buds Brighten, Damask Roses Bulge 

Will Latest Push for Accountability for Syria Torture Succeed? 

O Wind, O Love, Take Me To My Country 

In Turkey’s Safe Zone in Syria, Security and Misery Go Hand in Hand 

Elastic Ice-Cream and Berry Slush: Good Afternoon 

Canadian Girl, 4, Freed from Syrian Detention Camp 

Church Bells, Mosque Calls, One Canopy Sky 

UN, US Condemn Russian Airstrikes on NW Syria 

Baklawa, Liquorice Root Juice, Crescent Moons: Al Midan Overflows

Now the Truth Emerges: How the US Fuelled the Rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq 

Day’s Heat Burns Night’s Lights: Perpetual Vitality 

Why has the Syrian War Lasted 10 Years? 

Croo-Doo-Doo-Doo, Croo-Doo-Doo-Doo: Laughing Dove Sings Sunrise

NO Means NO

I’m Not a Virus

Malcolm X


lost for words lump in my throat on the tip of my tongue 

unable to think of anything to say through intense confusion shock a feeling of tightness pressure  in the throat due to emotion failing to retrieve a word from memory but retrieval is imminent






there’s no place like home is where the heart is anything but at odds are a smooth sea 

never made  a skilled sailor throw the baby out with the bathwater from the bottom of 

my heavy heart a  drowning man will clutch at straw do you understand 

to have an affinity for one’s home over every other place with which one has the strongest  emotional 

connection is the place that one regards as home by no means conflicts with the  

chances or balance of probability in favour of easy situations can never improve you 

discarding  something valuable along with other things that are inessential or 

undesirable very sincerely  weighed down with grief someone who is in a very difficult 

situation and who will take any  available opportunity to improve it do you understand

Animations by Rachel Lim

Copyright © 2021 Amnesty International Toronto Organization.