Yousafzai, Sami, Moreau, Ron, Newsweek
Byline: Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
Afghanistan's first female rapper refuses to be silenced. a[umlaut] a[umlaut]
"listen to my voice/It's not just your choice," raps Susan Feroz on her new track "Naqisul Aqal," an Islamic term that means "mentally disturbed" and is frequently used to insult women. "I am not just a woman/I am also human."
It's a simple message, but as Afghanistan's first female rapper, Feroz is hoping it will make a difference in her tradition-bound homeland. "Men should have this feeling that women are half of our society. Right now, men see woman as having little or no value," she says. "I want to encourage women, and to make men understand we can do the same things that they do."
Born in Afghanistan and raised in neighboring Iran, Feroz--who speaks Farsi--began rapping a year ago to a[umlaut]express the suffering that her family and fellow Afghan refugees experienced during their exile in Iran and Pakistan. Her first recording, "Our Neighbors," details the difficulties of immigrant life. The song quickly became popular, as well as controversial--conservative Afghans were opposed to the idea of a girl rapping, while others protested against her comments on Iran. "I'm surprised how famous I became with one song," she says.
In "Our Neighbors," Feroz recalls the insults and humiliation she endured abroad. In Iran, where she lived with her family for seven years, she was rarely allowed to go to school. Some bureaucratic excuse always surfaced to prevent her and other refugees from registering, she says. The daily trip to the bakery to buy bread was often a harrowing ordeal. More than once, men would take her by the ear and pull her to the back of the queue, telling her, "The place for you dirty Afghans is at the end of the line." She says she always shot back at them: "We are working in your country and not begging."
"If you looked a man in the eyes, he would call you all kinds of names," she says. "As a result of these insults, I think half of us became terrorists and the other half, drug addicts." The three years she spent in Pakistan were hardly better. "The Pakistani police were always bothering us," she says.
She returned to Afghanistan in 2003, when her father landed a job in the southern city of Kandahar. Happy to be home again, she wanted to study to be a doctor or an engineer--but as a Farsi speaker, she was unable to attend the Pashto-language schools there. With her education on hold, she pursued her love of singing and acting. Her breakthrough came 18 months ago, when the family moved to Kabul and she began to rap to express her frustrations. With most popular Afghan music hewing to syrupy romantic ballads, Feroz's songs were a novelty--and she caught the eye of Farid Rastagar, Afghanistan's top music director, who promoted her talents. …