three Kabul women in the 1970s

It was 5 o’clock in the morning in Canada, and I was awakened by a dream that caused me a fright. I was thinking about Canada, how it is a peaceful and safe country with equal rights—your choice of clothes doesn’t matter here. I like it that no one makes people wear what they want them to wear.

When I look at pictures of my mother in Afghanistan forty years ago, in the period of the last king, Mohammed Zahir Shar, I see there was plenty of freedom in the way women dressed. But after decades of war, all everyone is talking about is women’s clothing. This is especially true on Fridays, when the mullahs speak out in the mosques.

Oh my God, I feel so sad when I hear people criticizing women’s dress. I believe Islam is in people’s hearts, not in a woman’s choice of clothes.

I tried to close my eyes and go back to sleep but I couldn’t so I opened my computer and saw the story on the AWWP blog about the Voice of Afghanistan singer Aryana Sayeed. Aryana herself commented on the story.

How important is that? What does a figure like Aryana do for the image of Afghan women in the world?

As I read the story by Mahnaz and Aryana’s comment, I felt proud. What a beautiful and direct message by a brave Afghan girl. It inspired me to raise and share my voice.

After long years of war in Afghanistan the TV show Voice of Afghanistan sounds like a plan to bring a positive change in Afghanistan and this is very important. Aryana Sayeed, a successful young singer with her beautiful voice who is a judge on the show, comforts our soul.

I think people like to talk about Aryana and pay attention to what she wears because she is the best female singer from Afghanistan.

I agree with my Afghan sister Mahnaz jan that the root of these negative ideas about women is our patriarchal culture, which allows men the authority to see women as insignificant and undeserving of any kind of respect and entitlement. Women and girls are denied many rights and freedoms. Men want Aryana to cover herself in long clothes and to cover her hair.

I think everyone should wear what they want.

Afghan women are constantly suffering from this controlling behavior about their clothes.

There are many Pakistani, Iranian, and Arabic female singers, but are they criticized the way men criticized Aryana? Unfortunately some Afghan women also blame her for her dress. The other three judges on the show are men. If they want to show off their personal choices in the way they dress, why shouldn’t Aryana Sayeed also do that? Why should our female singing stars be limited? Why are the talents of women in our society always insulted?

Islam is not wrapped in the burqa or in a big shawl; Islam is in our hearts. We are showing our Islamic culture in our words and actions.

I loved it where Aryana Sayeed wrote, “If united, we have the ability to change the way Afghan women are treated in Afghanistan.”

Yes, we should bring changes. The only way is through unity and by raising the voices of women by writing. My message is not only for my Afghan sisters Mahnaz and Aryana Sayeed, but for all of our sisters around the world.

We suffer from misery by superstitious tradition. Why should women’s dress be so important? There is too much war going on in our country to have time to consider how women are dressing. Afghan people should not allow these accusations against each other. We must come together in unity to defend our rights.

By Mariam

Photo: Kabul in the 1970s before the Taliban.