The shaky voice of a female contestant caught the attention of a woman who understands. A judge on the popular TV show, “The Voice of Afghanistan,” turned her chair the moment she heard the melody of a fellow woman’s voice.
Until the Taliban crumbled in 2011, women were not allowed to be shown on TV. Now, Aryana Sayeed is proving people wrong and as a popular female vocalist, she acts as one of the judges for the show. Sayeed stands alone as a symbol for female independence in a country where the culture feels differently. She chooses not to wear a head scarf onscreen; something she receives death threats for. In an interview with CNN, Sayeed remembers, “They said that whoever kills this singer would go to heaven,” and acknowledges how her choices have influenced many Afghan women.
Women of Afghanistan are expected to keep themselves covered in a patriarchal society, but Sayeed sees a different future. By uncovering her hair she forces people to see her and her beauty, and does so as an act of personal freedom. Appearing on national TV without a headscarf brought on a myriad of hateful comments from the Afghan public, mostly men shaming her for exposing herself. Her figure fitting wardrobe angered some, but for others her act of defiance spoke to them.
In the conservative culture of Islamic Afghanistan, Sayeed pushes back, using her music as a platform. In one of her popular songs, she makes the distinct connection between her womanhood and slavery. In her experience, she is secondary to men solely based on her gender. She fights this, telling AFP, “I want women to have rights, to talk freely, to walk freely, to be able to go shopping when they wish,” without the fear of a man telling her what she should and should not be doing.
Sayeed took steps forward by immediately supporting the female contestant who demonstrated bravery when she sang in front of an audience of men and on national TV. Sayeed hopes for this to become commonplace and accepted as it is in many other countries, with women receiving the same opportunities and respect as men.
— Elena Lopez