aryana-sayeedEditor’s note: The Voice of Afghanistan singing competition broadcasts on Tolo TV in Afghanistan on Friday nights. The reality show began broadcasting at the end of May this year after producers selected four singers to be the coaches, including Kabul-born Aryana Sayeed.

Some days ago, I saw a photo of Aryana Sayeed on her Facebook page for her fans. I came across one of her new photos where she is wearing a white, long-sleeved dress with silver ornaments and she is looking over her shoulder, so you see her back.

Beneath the picture I read a few of the thousands of comments written by Afghan men and women. Some comments praised the singer for her beauty or expressed their love for her, but many expressed hatred. Afghan men tried to degrade her with comments like:  

“Oh, your ass killed me.”

“What bad did you see from your front, bloody bitch, that now you show off your back?”

“I think you are looking for customers that you are showing off your body, anyway, it is acceptable.”

“You are the number one whore.”

“My Afghan blood boils when I see an Afghan girl sleeps with other men. Everybody blame us, Iranians and Arabs. Afghan’s heads were not down in front of anybody. This whore brought down our head in front of people.”

I was so disgusted. I could not believe Afghan men could be this rude just because Aryana, who lives in London, was wearing modern clothes. Being a man does not mean you can be shameless with insults and cursing. Being a man means you should behave respectfully and that you should think before you speak. Unfortunately some of the comments by women also called her “shameless” or an “infidel.”

Some people may say that the root of these rude and vulgar opinions is religion.

I would say the root is a selfish, patriarchal culture that gives men authority to command women and tell them how to behave. I believe the root of this patriarchal attitude stems first from wrong upbringing and second from a lack of laws to defend women. The majority of Afghan parents give more freedom to their sons than to their daughters. Afghan boys are raised with the idea that they are better and stronger than girls.

Afghan boys are raised to believe that corruption in a society is caused by the immodesty of women. Boys can play outside, swim in the river, and go to work, while girls need permission to go outside and often must explain where they have been. They are pressured to not wear make-up and to wear only dark colors. Always look down. Don’t laugh. Don’t make eye contact with men. If a girl is raped, many Afghan people say, “It’s her fault.”

Some Afghan men who have been exposed to a more liberal society have learned to respect women’s freedom and their choice of clothing. But many conservative Afghan men think it is their duty to correct Afghan girls, and their “corrections” mainly take the form of insults, harassment, and beatings.

The people who commented on Aryana Sayeed’s photo should pay attention to their own behavior, not dictate to others. A man who insults a woman only shows how he is small and cheap.

Afghan female artists and singers such as Aryana experience many difficulties in following their art. Does anyone care what the popular male singer Farhad Darya wears? We should not make Aryana’s journey harder with rude comments. We should allow our female artists to grow and shine.

By Mahnaz

Photo from Aryana Sayeed’s Facebook page.