Tuesday, May 24

“Music is my life”: schoolgirl singing ban in Afghanistan met with protest | Global development

The Afghan Ministry of Education appears to be backtracking on the decision to impose a national singing ban on schoolgirls.

In a letter sent to school boards last week, which was leaked to the media, the Kabul Department of Education said that girls aged 12 and over would no longer be able to sing at public events, unless at events. only women attended. The letter also stipulated that a male music teacher could not train girls.

The reason given for the decision was to allow students to focus on their studies. But the announcement sparked widespread outrage, with many accusing the government of sympathizing with the Taliban and promoting gender discrimination.

In protest, women across the country, including many prominent Afghan leaders, recorded videos of themselves singing and posted them on social media using the hashtag. #IAmMySong.

This week, the ministry appeared to be backtracking on the decision, saying it is investigating the ban, announced by the director of education in the capital, Kabul. A statement from the ministry said the letter did not reflect its position and that it would evaluate the issue.

Ahmad Sarmast, founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which started the #IAmMySong campaign, urged the ministry to officially repeal the previous order.

“The decree not only violates the musical rights of Afghan girls and deprives them of the healing power of music, but also violates the Afghan constitution, child protection laws and the international convention on the rights of the child,” he said.

Women across Afghanistan express themselves through music, and many use it as a coping mechanism in times of violence and war. Notable singers, musicians and dancers practice their art across the country.

Children attend a school in Garmaab Olya village, Lal district, Ghor province, Afghanistan.
Children attend a school in Lal district, Ghor province, Afghanistan. The ban stated that girls over the age of 12 could not sing in public, except in front of a female-only audience. Photography: Stefanie Glinski

Many report receiving threats or being asked by their own families to stop. Maram Abdallah, 18, a pianist who is about to graduate from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, said she has had to fight her family’s conservative attitudes in order to play music.

“I grew up in Egypt, where my parents attended university and started playing the piano when I was five years old, but when we returned to Afghanistan, my dad wouldn’t let me continue,” she said. Abdallah’s father told him that pressure from society was the reason for his veto.

“Music was and is my life. It is my way of expressing my feelings and dealing with difficulties, ”he said. “When I was forbidden to play, I withdrew completely and fell into a deep depression.”

She said it took her a year to convince her father to let her play. The first time she was allowed to sit down at the piano again, she was overwhelmed with emotion. “I came back to life at that point,” he said.

Since then, Abdallah has performed around the world, including in the UK and Australia, and dreams of one day becoming a solo pianist.

“Women who sing are part of our culture,” said Shaharzad Akbar, president of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who sang her protest on social media. “Women have always sung and played instruments at weddings, for example. I remember going to town when I was a child, seeing the women dance. “

Fahima Mirzaie, a 24-year-old teacher, has been practicing Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, since her teens and uses music and dance to connect with her faith.

Fahima Mirzaie, a 24-year-old teacher, has practiced Sufism and uses music and dance to connect with her faith.
Fahima Mirzaie, a 24-year-old teacher, has practiced Sufism and uses music and dance to connect with her faith. Photography: Stefanie Glinski

“I identify myself through Sufism. It’s a way to get to the truth, ”she said from a gym in the basement of a Kabul school where she practiced music and dance with her students.

Singing and dancing is part of what Afghanistan does. It is important to share these traditions with children, ”he said.

The Afghan government had introduced some “Incredibly misogynistic” policiessaid Heather Barr, Acting Co-Director of Women’s Rights, Human Rights Watch.

“I don’t even think they are trying to find the Taliban in the middle… the negotiation process may have opened space for people in government who oppose women’s rights to seize the opportunity and push for policies against women. . There are natural allies of the Taliban worldview in government, ”he said.

During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, music was banned throughout the country and girls were unable to attend school. “If they could get it back in exactly that way, they would,” Barr added.

“I don’t think the Taliban have changed since then,” said Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan politician and peace negotiator at the Doha talks. “Hopefully, if they find a way to practice their ways and ideas in a more open Afghan society, they will change over time.”


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