Music: Afghanistan’s First Female Rapper Calls For the End of Abusing Women
For many, hip hop is the sound of rebellion, and Sosan Firooz — Afghanistan’s first female rapper — has pro-Afghanistan and anti-Taliban messages in her track “Our Neighbors.” Firooz, who is 23 years old, spent time in Iran and in Pakistan as a refugee from the Taliban regime.
Her song is about her life, with lyrics like “War drove me out of my homeland” and:
In the country of strange our child was abused
Our educated ones became street workers
We ate our own body when we were starved
We drank our own tears when we were thirsty
We thought going to Europe bring us joy
We might find a living, we might end suffering
But we were stuck in the refugee camps
Where our skins were extinct
I dreamt kissing the dust of my homeland
We were kings and queens in our own land
But here, we are waiters and dish washers
Still, the track ends on an upbeat note:
But, but we are hopeful now
United from now on
No more child abuse, woman abuse
No more going silent
Speaking out like this is not without risk; even appearing in her video (comprised of still photos) with her hair flowing free is pretty scandalous. The fact that her music is getting international attention, and putting a face and heart to headlines we might otherwise gloss over is another reminder of how important art and music are as forms of expression. Someone needs to put together a Pussy Riot/Sosan Firooz show!
Though some of her family members have shunned Firooz, she has support, as Rahim Faiez writes:
Firooz’s uncle has cut off relations with his family because she appears on TV and sings, says her father, Abdul Ghafar Firooz. He says he has quit his job at the government-run electric department to accompany her whenever she leaves the house and protect her as she pursues her acting and musical career.
“I am her secretary, answering her phones. I am her bodyguard, protecting her. When she’s out, I must be with her,” her father said. “Every parent must support their daughters and sons to help them progress,” he said.
Nobody expected Sadaf Rahimi, the female boxer originally selected to represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games this week, to do well in the ring. The mere fact that she would be representing her country was triumph enough. To get to the selection stage, she had to fend off social opprobrium, religious condemnation and even the disapproval of some of her own coaches who believed that women’s boxing shouldn’t go any further than the hobby stage. Rahimi won every one of those battles. Her path to London was but the latest leg of an extraordinary journey for Afghanistan’s women, who, little more than a decade ago, were forced to stay at home, denied the right to obtain an education, to work — and to play sports. She might have won over her countrymen, but in the end, she couldn’t make it past the International Boxing Association (AIBA), who decided on July 18 that she could not compete, citing concerns that boxing against opponents of much higher standards might threaten her safety in the ring. Not only is this a disappointment for Rahimi, her family and the aspirations of female Afghan athletes, it strikes a blow to the International Olympic Committee’s goal to have female athletes represent every country, just a week after Saudi Arabia, the last holdout, reluctantly agreed to send two female athletes.
Rahimi had been preparing for the Olympics since February, when she was first notified that she would receive what is known as a wild-card invitation — a special berth granted to nations that would not otherwise be able to qualify an appropriately skilled athlete. Later that month she traveled to the U.K. to train in a special AIBA boxing camp, where she had her first taste of Olympic-caliber boxing. At first, she told TIME, she was getting knocked down “two to three times a day.” But by the end of the two-week program, she was starting to hold her own in the ring. Still, she was sanguine about her chances in London. “I am sure I will be punched like a bag. Like I am a pillow being pummeled,” she told TIME in April. “Whether I win a medal or not, I will be a symbol of courage as soon as I step into the ring.”
It is unclear why the AIBA waited until just over a week before the Olympics to revoke Rahimi’s invitation. In May, when Rahimi attended the women’s world boxing championships in China, her fight was stopped short, after a minute and 20 seconds, because she was doing so poorly. Her coach, as well as the Afghan National Olympic Committee, felt that her performance in China was an aberration, saying she had performed well in other international competitions. Rahimi, say close friends in Kabul, is disappointed. But she is looking forward to competing in other international events and still holds out hope that with a few more years to train, her chances in Rio 2016 will be even better. And back at home, in the ramshackle studio Rahimi shares with Afghanistan’s other boxers, she has already started winning some converts to her side. As the women’s club trickled out of the gym to make way for the men’s boxing team a few months ago, I stopped to ask one of the men’s coaches what he thought about the idea of women boxing. “At the beginning it was strange,” admitted Sayed Haroon. “Everything new is strange at first, but you can get used to anything if you see it enough times.” Rahimi may not be boxing in London this year, but she will continue the fight back home in Afghanistan.
To read more about Rahimi, read Baker’s piece here.
“In September 2008, Malalai Kakar was assassinated by the Taliban in Kandahar. A target for years she was shot dead in front of her home.
Malalai was the first female police officer in Kandahar since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001. Among her many distinguishing features, the pistol beneath the burka was one of the most notable.
Malalai helped countless women in one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan. She risked every day for what she believed in and for that she paid with her life. She was a mother of six and a sister to many.”