One Afghani Rapper's Beautiful Way Of Being Heard

by Lauren Holter

While it's tempting to watch Beyonce's "Formation" video on repeat all day every day (trust me, I get it), here's another music video you should watch immediately. Afghanistan's youngest female rapper, Sonita Alizadeh, sings in protest of child marriage after escaping it herself. Her song "Brides for Sale" is a powerful glimpse at how it really feels to be sold by your family, with no say in the matter.

"Let me whisper to you my words. So no one hears that I speak of the selling of girls," the song begins, showing Alizadeh, 19, with a black eye and a bar code painted across her forehead. "My voice shouldn't be heard, as it is against Sharia. Women must remain silent." As the song continues, Alizadeh appears in a white wedding dress and veil, asking, "What can I do to prove my personhood?"

Speaking at the annual Women in the World summit last week, Alizadeh explained that her parents first tried to sell her when she was only 10. "It was a painful moment," she said. "I couldn't understand that I'd have to forget my dreams." When she was 16, she was almost sold again, this time for $9,000, to pay for her brother's wife.

Alizadeh created "Brides for Sale" to be a voice for her friends and girls in various countries who are sold to men at a young age. The black eye she painted on was inspired by a friend of hers who was beaten by her family because she protested being auctioned off. "I started to rap to share my feelings about the painful experience of being a girl," she said at the summit.

A documentary, Sonita, was made about Alizadeh's life, and premiered in Amsterdam last year. It follows her story of almost being sold into marriage twice, fleeing Afghanistan to a refugee shelter in Iran, and her journey of singing in a country where women aren't allowed to sing. She's currently living in the U.S., after receiving a scholarship for a music school in Utah.

The rapper has accumulated fans all over the world, including in her home country, and her music video now has almost half a million views on YouTube. She wants to return to Afghanistan one day to help other girls facing child marriage, and dreams of playing a concert there, though her music is already making an impact.

"In Afghanistan, they hear my song from TV, from radio," she said. "Now they realize, 'As a girl, I have power.'"

Images: Sonita Alizadeh/YouTube