Life hasn’t always been easy for this aspiring artist. In the past seven years, the 27-year-old Muslim has been forced to flee her country twice, received more death threats than she can remember, and was brutally beaten by 10 men and left for dead. Treated worse than a criminal for CHOOSING to wear a baseball cap instead of a hijab and speaking out for women’s rights.
According to Paradise, “It doesn’t matter if you are a singer, an artist, or a teacher,” says Paradise. “If you are a woman in Afghanistan, you are a problem. I am speaking out and fighting for women who don’t have a voice.”
The Guardian reports:
In a country where, according to the UN, 87% of women have endured physical or sexual violence, Paradise’s scathing lyrics about gender inequality in post-Taliban Afghanistan have served as a spark for change and a lightning rod for controversy. She raps defiantly in Dari about how women can get acid poured on their faces for resisting rape, be married off as children to older men, and belong to husbands who can set them on fire.
Speaking out has come at a price, but it has also garnered support. Paradise was recognised by the UN in 2013 for promoting human rights, while she and her fiance Diverse – together they are known as 143Band – won the Afghan ATN network’s award for best rap act in 2015. The duo are nominated again this year.
But as her popularity soared, so did the number of violent threats she received. Fearing for their safety, last year she and Diverse fled Afghanistan and joined the more than one million migrants who arrived in Germany from the Middle East.
In the process, the pair have begun to reach an entirely new audience, writing and producing songs in their Berlin flat and touring throughout Germany. They release their first music video in two years next month for the song Bosaye Eshgh, they’ve just headlined at the international FeminEast festival in Stockholm, and Rebel Beats, a documentary about Paradise’s struggle as Afghanistan’s first female rapper, will appear in European film festivals early next year.
Born in Iran to Afghan parents who escaped the country’s civil war, Paradise moved back to Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city, with her family following the fall of the Taliban. She grew up idolising Tupac, Eminem and Beyoncé though didn’t know anyone who shared her love of hip-hop until she met Diverse – another former refugee just back from Iran. The two decided to start making music together in 2008, but the odds were against them.
“Herat is a very religious city,” says Diverse. “Sharia law forbids women to sing. The fact that we are not married was also a problem. Every time we’d try to go to a studio together, strangers would start following us.”
One night, Paradise was walking home with her younger brother when 10 men on six motorcycles surrounded her and started beating her with wooden rods. “They were shouting at me and saying I was a bad influence on other women by trying to make music,” Paradise says. “All I could do was to try to defend my brother. They passed me from one man to the next. I begged people nearby to help, but they just urged the men to beat me to death.”
When Diverse found her, Paradise’s clothes were torn and she was covered in blood. He immediately took her to the police. “They told me I should stop singing,” says Paradise. “That’s when I knew that if I stayed silent, nothing would change.”
Fearful of what might happen if they stayed in Herat, the couple moved to neighbouring Tajikistan in late 2010, where Paradise began writing songs about women’s rights over Diverse’s beats. The following year, they released Faryad-e Zan (Woman’s Shout), the first song ever to feature a female Afghan rapper. In the years since, Paradise says she feels “proud and honoured” to have ushered in a handful of other female rappers, even if several have claimed to be the country’s first while simultaneously asking her for guidance.
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