Meet Afghanistan’s First Female Rapper


Last night’s AMAs were a blur of metallic outfits, celebrity antics, and Miley Cyrus with a giant crying cat as a backup dancer. Perhaps you’d like a little palate cleanser? If so, consider the story of Paradise Sorouri, who is probably Afghanistan’s first female rapper.

With her fiancé Dairos (who performs as “Diverse”), Sorouri is half of Afghan rap group 143. According to France 24, both were born in Iran to families who’d fled the country’s civil war, but moved back to Herat as teens, where they met at university. The pair tours in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and has performed several times in Kabul.

But Afghanistan is famously unfriendly, even downright hostile, to women who’d like any sort of career as a performer. Consider the case of Latifa Azizi, who received death threats for her time on the popular TV show Afghan Star. Meanwhile, activists are concerned that more restrictions on the rights of women are coming.

What’s more, Sorouri’s work is not only informed by Western influences but blatantly political. She and her partner were inspired to tackle the treatment of women in Afghanistan after moving to Tajikistan, partly out of safety worries. (They’ve since returned.) 2010’s “Cry of the Woman” and the more recent “Nalestan” (above) both deal with the issue.

Sorouri explained to France 24:

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. All female artists who work in Afghanistan today are risking their lives so that they can pave the way for other women.

It hasn’t been easy, either. A Washington Post reporter interviewed Sorouri in June, when she was still settling back into Kabul. “The mind of Afghan people is not ready for girls or women performing in public; people insult me and say I’m a bad girl,” she said. At one point, an attempted video interview on her balcony was cut short when another building resident interrupted, worried about the reaction from a cleric in the mosque next door.

In a more recent interview with Mashable, she talked of “verbal abuse from both men and women who expressed their disapproval through insults and even threatened her,” while filming a music video on the street.

But it’s not going to shut her down, she told France 24: “We started receiving many threatening messages ordering to stop our work,” after releasing “Nalestan.” “But we won’t stop.”

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