Soosan Firooz raps about her experiences of war and oppression in Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of YouTube
Against a backdrop of conservatism and oppression of women, Afghanistan’s first female rapper has debuted with a song that speaks directly to her fellow citizens, asking ‘Listen to my story! Listen to my pain and suffering!’
23-year-old Soosan Firooz, an established Afghan actor appearing in a number of local television soaps, is using the powerful genre of rap to begin a new and much needed conversation regarding the liberation of women and the destructive force of war on a nation and its people.
Her song tells: ‘When war started in our country, there were bullets, artillery, rockets. All our trees were burned down. The war forced us to leave our country. We are hopeful for the future in our country. And we request that our neighbouring countries leave us alone.’
Firooz raps in her native Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two main languages, about her own experiences, and the social change that is needed in her country. Strict social conventions of conservatism in Afghanistan continue to permeate all aspects of the society.
When Firooz sang at a three-day music festival in Kabul earlier this month, restrictions in social interaction between men and women meant the musicians played for a female audience on the first day and for men on the last two days.
In her first and only song, Our Neighbours
, Firooz recounts her childhood as a refugee in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan during the Afghan civil war of the 1990s.
Firooz says during her five years in Iran, she was treated poorly. ‘I remember while we were in Iran, we were called 'dirty Afghans' and told to go to the back of the line at the bakery,’ she told the Associated Press
Though her lyrics and image are far removed from the ideal of the conservative woman in Afghan culture, Firooz is lucky to have the support of her immediate family as she challenges the mindset currently in place. Some of her relatives have cut ties, but that has not deterred her father who left his job to dedicate his time to protecting Firooz as she pursues a musical and acting 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 told Associated Press
Her mother continues her humanitarian work in remote areas of the nation, but remains tight-lipped about her daughter’s activities.
Well-known Afghan Singer and composer, Fared Rastagar, worked on the arrangement of Our Neighbours
and said he was in awe of Firooz and her family’s courage.
‘Rap is needed here. We need to bring changes in all parts of life including music,’ he said to Autostraddle.
The rap that Soosan Firooz sings hasn’t fully developed in the culture of the region. There are few male rappers, and their scarce CDs can be purchased at the Kabul bazaar.
Poverty also proves a challenge for Firooz. Her family returned from Pakistan seven years ago and now live in a mud house in a ‘poor’ area in north Kabul. The young musician writes music on a computer that is not always functioning, her electronic keyboard was a gift from one of her supporters, and she doesn’t have the money to make CDs.
Our Neighbours has only been released on YouTube and features various shots of Firooz in expressive, hip-hop garb.