The secret musicians of Afghanistan

The secret musicians of Afghanistan

Amanda Florian and Abdul Wahab Siddiqi write:

Day breaks in western Afghanistan. Outside, gunshots fired by the Taliban pierce the hazy sky. A loudspeaker plays a cappella chants — or taranas — that demand the attention of citizens. Emergency vehicles transferring bodies broadcast recitations from the Quran. As children fight and play on unpaved roads, the chant-like prayers of mullahs reverberate across the city five times a day. There’s only one sound that’s missing — music.

Under the Taliban’s regime, music is sinful and a crime. But for many in Afghanistan, especially musicians and K-pop enthusiasts, it’s an escape. It’s a secret symbol of peace.

Neima Naqshi secretly teaches music to a handful of students, including girls, despite the Taliban’s harsh measures that prohibit people from listening to or creating music.

“A large part of our energy is spent on security arrangements so that we do not fall into the trap of the Taliban,” he told New Lines. “If you tell this story to people of the Western world, they will either not believe you or they will laugh at you. But we live in a part of the world where this situation has become a part of our life.”

Since their takeover of the country, the extremist group has not only banned music and music education but has also prohibited girls from attending classes past sixth grade. Women are told to stay home and can’t go to the gym or to a park. They can’t work for an NGO. They can’t get a driver’s license. The list goes on.

For Nilofar, 26, and her sister, Mahsa, 20 — who are both confined to their home in western Afghanistan — the restrictions placed on women and girls have left them feeling like captives.

“Since we’re not allowed to go outside, I assume myself to be a prisoner,” Nilofar said. [Continue reading…]

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