Currently the Principal Urdu Lecturer for the University of Texas at Austin's Urdu Flagship Programme, Ishrat Afreen was born into an educated family on December 25, 1956 in Karachi. She is an Urdu poet, who was named one of the five most influential and trend-setting female voices in Urdu Literature. Her works have been translated in many languages including English, Japanese, Sanskrit and Hindi.
Ishrat was first published at the age of 14 in 1971. She continued writing and was published in a multitude of literary magazines across India and Pakistan. Ishrat Afreen eventually became assistant editor for the monthly magazine Awaaz, edited by the poet Fahmida Riaz.
Parallel to her writing career she participated in several radio shows on Radio Pakistan from 1970-1984 that aired nationally and globally. She later worked under Mirza Jamil on the now universal Noori Nastaliq Urdu script for InPage.
Ishrat pursued her undergraduate education at the Allama Iqbal Govt College Karachi and later received her Master (MA) Degree in Urdu Literature from the University of Karachi. She also taught at the Aga Khan School and boardinghouse.
She is part of the feminist movement in Urdu Literature. Other women in the movement include Ada Jafri, Zohra Nigah, Fahmida Riaz, Kishwar Naheed and Parveen Shakir.
Ishrat identifies strongly with the Urdu poets Muhammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. She uses their polished, traditional style and skill-fully redirects it to create defiant progressive messages of individuality and rebellion against patriarchal and oppressive social norms.
Ishrat Afreen has published two collections of poetry entitled Kunj Peeleh Poolon Ka (1985) and Dhoop Apne Hisse Ki (2005). Amongst others, she has been included in the prestigious anthology We Sinful Women and inspired the well-known anthology Beyond Belief: Contemporary Feminist Urdu Poetry. Ishrat Afreen ki Shairi was a book written solely on Afreen's poetry by novelist and literary critic Ikram Barelvi.
In a society which is heavily male-dominated and devoted to the past, it is not surprising then, that the most popular women poets would be those who conform to both socio-cultural and literary traditions. Yet, the women poets who attracted her interest and whose work she has found the most exciting represent the brave departures from that literary tradition.
She has tried to bring together in this selection the contemporary strain in Urdu poetry by Women to put across the strength of feminist feeling and conviction that she never knew existed until she came across her debut collection: A Grove of Yellow Flowers which prompted a search for more of the same.
Her poetry is also prescribed in courses at several Universities ranging from the University of Lahore in Pakistan to the University of Texas at Austin. She continues to lecture, hold workshops, attend conferences and read her poetry at Mushairas across America, Europe and Asia.
Ishrat Afreen has been invited to attend many International Conferences and Festivals. She was selected to represent Pakistan in the Kavita Asia Asian Poetry Festival of 1988 in Bhopal, India which celebrated the greatest literary minds from across the Asian continent. In September 1999, she partook in the International Poetry Festival in Stavanger, Norway.
She married Syed Perwaiz Jafri and migrated to America. They now reside in Houston, Texas with their three children.