With her first rap song, the outspoken 23-year-old singer is making history in her homeland, where society frowns on women who take the stage. She already has been shunned by some of her relatives.
She sings about repression of women, her hopes for a peaceful Afghanistan and the misery she says she experienced as a small child living in neighboring Iran. Her family fled there during the Afghan civil war of the 1990s and the hard-line Taliban regime’s rise to power in 1996. During her five-year stay there, she said the Iranians looked with disdain on Afghan refugees.
“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,” said Miss Firooz, who also spent time as a refugee in Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan with her family seven years ago, to the Associated Press in an interview.
Her song’s message to Afghans: Stay in your homeland. Those who leave, she sings, will only get jobs washing dishes or working at a car wash. “They will miss their homeland,” she raps in a staccato style, part rap and part hip-hop. “They will want to kiss the dust of their homeland.
So far, the song, titled “Our Neighbors,” has only been released on YouTube, with a video that shows a series of pictures of Miss Firooz posing in hip-hop style gear, with jeans, dangling chains and bracelets. In some pictures, she wears a bandana with skulls, but her long hair flows freely, with no head scarf — a rarity among Afghan women, including the few female singers.
Miss Firooz is also an actress, appearing in secondary roles in a number of local TV soap operas. Earlier this month, she sang at a three-day music festival in Kabul. Because social interaction between men and women is restricted, the musicians played for a female audience the first day and male audiences the last two days.
She is still not yet widely known among Afghans, but she’s breaking traditional rules for women in a very conservative society, where some women don’t go outside without wearing blue burqas that cover them from head to toe. Violence against women still is common in Afghanistan, especially in remote areas. There are reports of women being stoned or executed in public for having affairs with men. Women are arrested, and others set themselves on fire to escape domestic violence. Women accused of adultery have been killed or imprisoned.
“We want an end to all cruelty against women and children,” Miss Firooz chants.
Miss Firooz’s uncle has cut off relations with his family because she appears on TV and sings, said her father, Abdul Ghafar Firooz. He said he has quit his job at the government-run electric department to accompany her whenever she leaves the house and protect her as she pursues her acting and musical 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 said. “Every parent must support their daughters and sons to help them progress,” he added.
Her mother, who does humanitarian work in some conservative, remote areas of southern Afghanistan, said she’s careful not to mention her daughter’s budding career.
“Family support gives me the strength to fight against the problems in our society,” the young singer said.