“Voice of Afghanistan” Singer Provokes Rude Commentary

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.


  1. Dear Mahnaz: Well said, well said! In a concise and eloquent fashion, you say it all. I hope Aryana Sayeed will read this. I hope men and women all over the world will read this. Brava. Stacy

  2. Mahnaz Jaan, I just wanted to personally take a moment and expresses my feelings and words of appreciation for the beautiful article you have written! I have always believed that we have more than enough bright young minds (both male and female) who if united have the ability to change the way Afghan Women are treated in Afghanistan. It brings joy to my heart when I see real examples of the thoughts I have always had in bright and polite individuals like you and many others out there.

    Keep up the great work and I hope to someday see you at a much higher position and making a bigger difference in the lives of the most unfortunate beings on the face of this planet, Afghan Women!!

    Lovve and regards,
    Aryana Sayeed

  3. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Impressive stuff! Bravo to both Aryana and to Mahnaz!

  4. Therese Close says:

    Dear Mahnaz,
    Thank you for voicing so beautifully your opinions on the importance of respect and of allowing female artists to express themselves without fear.

    Best wishes,

  5. Dear Mahnaz,
    Thank you, thank you for speaking your mind (and so beautifully)! As a woman, I am so proud to call both you and Aryana my peers.
    All my best,

  6. Aryana, whether she were afghani or not, is posed tastefully and fully clothed which should be respected and admired for not appearing trashy or degrading to her person for the sake of publicity. It is sad that as progressive as the world is there is still many cultures that believe women are the instruments and possessions of men.

    Men are weak without women, there is no meaning or reason for their existence without women. Women are far stronger in their minds and convictions, a family would not be a family without women.

  7. Dear Mahnaz,
    I just read your piece and the comments aloud to my husband and we both say, Hurrah for you and Aryana! You are brave women, and are the hope of all women and the world. Onward and upward!
    You have our deepest respect.

  8. Dear Mahnaz,
    Knowing the hard row women in Afghanistan must hoe, and the fury many endure for standing up and speaking out I applaud you for your spirited yet respectful words. When others make disrespectful comments it is often difficult not to respond in kind. Your eloquence speaks volumes. It is voices such as yours that will one day bring the ignorant out of the dark so they may see the light that women carry as they lead the way.

  9. Thank you all for your kind and encouraging comments. I am happy Aryana Saied also read this piece. I wanted her to know that there are many people who understand her struggle, and admire her courage.

  10. It takes courage like yours to speak out against something so wrong and which needs to be brought to light so that it changes. Instead of shrugging your shoulders, thinking to yourself: “This is Afghanistan’s culture” and closing down Facebook in an attempt to forget what you just witnessed, you chose to share your disgust and explain it in a way so that others understand and stir change. We need more people like you. Thank you for sharing.
    ” A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true. ” – Martin Luther King.

  11. Molly Kress says:

    What a gorgeous photo – I hope she wins!! Thanks Mahnaz for a great article – and for your great courage in writing it – you both have won already :)


  12. Dear Mahnaz,
    Your clear and eloquent essay is a stunning example of the power of a woman’s (or any writer’s) voice. I am inspired. Keep up the good work!

  13. Dear Mahnaz,
    Your This Article Was just awesome and stunning…
    and we all Appreciate both of you and Aryana.. and we proud that we have such icons in our Society.

  14. Andrea K. says:

    “Being a man does not mean you can be shameless with insults and cursing.”

    Of course, this isn’t limited to Afghani men. The other day while stuck in a traffic jam, I made a speaker phone call to my babysitter to let her know that I would be late. Within seconds, the driver next to me was screaming at me through my open window, calling me a “stupid c*nt” for speaking on the phone while in a car (it is against the law to drive while talking on the phone in my state, but since we had been stuck in traffic for ten minutes and weren’t going anywhere, I felt justified making a hands-free call. Not only did my traffic jam neighbor feel differently, but he felt free to express his opinions on everything from my weight (“you fat f*ck” to my employment “you b*tch wh*re”). And this was without the anonymity of the internet!).

    This is a world in which far too many men simply hate women.

  15. Dear Mahnaz:

    This kind of bullying and prejudice exists in all cultures, but in the case of the comments you site they are meant to keep this one woman down, to make her ashamed of their natural beauty, and her talent.
    That you can see this so young gives me hope. So, what can we do? We must make it our responsibility to lift up other women, to praise them when they deserve praise. Too often women, who lack power elsewhere, join in and ridicule other women. We must fight this on all fronts.
    You are very articulate, very brave, and I applaud your ability with language. Your ability with language is a powerful tool. Continue to speak out for the sake of all of us.


  16. Rameen says:

    The men who are insulting and berating this poor woman who has chosen to emphasize her beauty for the whole world to see are only giving her more motivation for her to rebel even stronger. I feel really bad for her because she will feel even worse than before and I think deep down she is feeling very hurt and cold. But whatever the case, I don’t blame her – it’s us as men who are at fault. A woman’s beauty is indeed a very precious thing.

    Patriarchy is not the evil that you presume it to be and is not taught. It was the natural order of things between man and woman. Men and women are inherently different in nature and the duties and responsibilities to be looked after in a family would best be tailored to the one whose nature is more geared towards that faculty.

    A woman can protect her home with an AK-47 and shoot and kill 3 Taliban men who are trying to harm her family while her husband is inside the home protecting the children and feeding their young baby milk from a bottle. If they are both able bodied and in their natural forms of man and woman, who would be better suited as the protector and who would be better suited as the nurturer? Now if the situation were different and the woman was an olympic body builder and the man a sick and an ungainly man, this picture would work. And would have to because of their personal NATURES – even if it’s in violation to their natural, God-given natures. This does not make one or the other ‘better’ but it does not make them equal also.

    Now when it comes to attraction, sex and relationships, there is also a difference. Men did not typically in nature attract women through looks. That’s why you do not see women commenting on Farhad Darya’s appearance. They have the freedom to do so but they don’t. That’s because the way men and women attract and love one another is DIFFERENT therefore not EQUAL, but that does not make one or the other BETTER.

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