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Sonita Alizadeh: The Afghan Rapper Speaking Out Against Forced Marriage

Forced marriage continues to be a nightmare for many young girls across the world: according to statistics, 27 minors are forced into marriage every minute.

Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old Afghan woman, has managed to escape two marriages that her parents tried to impose on her. The first time that her mother brought up the subject of marriage, Sonita was only ten years old.

"I wasn’t sad then because I didn’t know what she was talking about. It was like dress-up", she explained to the BBC, reminding us of the powerlessness and lack of understanding that these young girls have as they face a tradition that can ruin their lives.

Sonita Alizadeh lors du sommet "Women in the World" à Londres.

Sonita Alizadeh at the "Women in the World" summit, London. (Photo: Women in the World)

While she managed to get out of it the first time, the topic of marriage came up again when Sonita was 16 years old. Her mother announced that she was going to marry a man she had never met in order to pay the dowry for her brother's marriage. Discussions had already begun and the man was prepared to pay $9,000 to buy her hand in marriage. 

Sonita described the moment that her mother informed her of the news, during last week's Women in the World summit in London: "I couldn't breathe, I couldn't speak. My heart broke. It was too hard to imagine marrying someone I didn’t know".

In her anger, she wrote the song "Brides For Sale", before recording it and uploading it to Youtube. The vibrancy of this clip allowed her to escape the clutches of forced marriage. 

"I scream to make up for a lifetime of women's silence"

"Let me whisper to you my words. So no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn't be heard as it is against sharia. Women must remain silent. This is this city's tradition", the rapper starts in whispered tones, dressed all in black, a bar code drawn on her head and the rest of her face hidden.

From these whispers, Sonita starts to quickly chant her anger, revealing a bruised face:

 

"Like all other girls, I am caged. I am seen as a sheep grown only to be devoured. They repeat that it is time to sell me. I am a person too, these are my eyes and ears."

 

She is then shown in a wedding dress pronouncing the equally powerful lyrics:

 

"Let me scream. I am tired of the silence. Lift your hands off me. I feel suffocated.

Voiceless, I am filled with doubt. If I am dead, how can I feel the whips?

Maybe escape and suicide are terribly stupid. But what can one do if there is no support?"

 

She finishes with a reminder that none of this features in the book of her faith: "I wish you would review the Quran. I wish you knew it doesn't say women are for sale."

While her video allowed her to obtain a bursary to study music at Utah's Wasatch Academy, her biggest wish is to return to her country to defend the women's rights. Now, far from her family, she does not blame them:

 

"My mother was 13 when she was married. Everyone had told her that she was a woman and had no value. This is what her family has told her and that is what she believed.

My music was a nightmare for her. Now she is one of my biggest fans.”

 

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