“All female artists who work in Afghanistan today are risking their lives so that they can pave the way for other women.” These are the words of 24 year old Paradise Sorouri, Afghan’s first female rap singer.
Born in Iran, Paradise makes up one half of the rap duo, 143—the other half being her fiancé, Diverse. Though the two started out singing about love and other familiar, tamer topics, their 2010 move from Herat, Afghanistan to Tajikistan inspired them to start writing songs about violence against women.
As Paradise explains, “During the three years that Dairos and I were working in Herat, I realized that there was a lot of violence and discrimination against women. In Afghanistan’s highly patriarchal society, if a woman has a job, she is looked down upon and will definitely be subjected to vulgar language. So just imagine what it is like for artists. Most people consider female artists as nothing more than prostitutes.”
The first song 143 released addressing the daily problems women must face is titled, “Faryade-e Zan" or, "Cry of the Woman,” which, according to Paradise, was received very positively in cyberspace.
The second tune, “Nalestan,” was more controversial. Not only are Paradise’s lyrics incredibly powerful, but they are daringly honest. As she raps, “I wanted to run and they hit me on the back; I wanted to think and they hit me on the head; they burned my face in the name of Islam, cut my nose for revenge; poured acid on my hands and body; sold me because I am only a woman.” This song, which explicitly comments on the violence against women, caused significant uproar from the public, and both Paradise and Diverse received threats ordering them to stop their work.
The duo, however, refuses to back down. 143 has toured both in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and has performed at six concerts in Kabul since. Regarding audience reception, Paradise states, “Fortunately, we have been received very warmly. At our most recent concert, a small part of the audience started insulting us when we performed ‘Cry of the Woman.’ But for the most part we’ve been treated well.”
Diverse and Paradise
Despite the increasing efforts of Afghan women to break out into the public, female artists are often threatened by religious radicals. As Paradise explains, “Since the Taliban left power, the situation for women in Afghanistan has improved, but only in large cities like Kabul, Mazar Sharif and Herat. And the majority of Afghanistan’s population does not live in these few cities. Every day we hear new stories about violence against women, forced marriages at very early ages and all sorts of other abuse. We still have a long way to go.”
Thankfully, Paradise is one of those women paving the way for others, and she’s doing a pretty amazing, badass job at it.
Watch the video for “Nalestan” below, and check out 143’s Facebook page here.