morcha guitarist

Editor’s note: Twelve years ago on October 7th, international forces invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban.

Today in my culture class we started with a short discussion about music. All of the students like different musical genres. Some like jazz, some pop, and a few like beatbox, where you use only your voice to make a kind of music.

I like my culture class very much, as everyone has different ideas and we have learned a lot about different cultures. This time one of my classmates shared a strange story about North Korea, where no one is allowed to listen to music except during special ceremonies. They can go to jail for listening to music.

It reminded me of the Taliban regime. Twelve years ago when the Taliban was still in place in Afghanistan, listening to music was considered an unforgivable crime. It is difficult for me to imagine my life with no music, as music has always brought joy to my family and the people of my village.

Between 1998 and 2001, I used to go to the mosque for religious studies. One Wednesday afternoon when I was six, the Mullah asked me to see him after class.

I went to his small room. His room was full of Islamic books and it smelled like ripe apples. Every week the villagers sent him fresh fruits. He asked me to sit down. I was very nervous and scared because the Mullah was always talking in secret to the Talibs.

The Mullah gave me an envelope, cleared his throat, and said, “Look, we are Muslims. A good Muslim always follows the Islamic rules. Give this letter to your father and tell him that he should not listen to music anymore.”

All the way home I thought about my dad and the Mullah’s words about being a good Muslim. I couldn’t understand what he meant. Was my father a bad Muslim? When I got home, my mother was in the kitchen. I didn’t give the letter to her; I waited for my dad to come home. Finally, he got home late that evening. Dinner was ready and my mother called everyone to the dining room.

I was still feeling very confused about listening to music and being a bad Muslim and finally I gave the Mullah’s letter to my father. He read it out loud and then tore it up.

“Don’t listen to him. Listening to music has nothing to do with Islam. Music is food for the soul,” he said, quoting a Persian expression.

I took a deep breath, but I was still afraid of Mullah, and I knew he might punish me if I told him what my father said. So I lied to the Mullah and told him that my father will not listen to music anymore.

Around this time, the Taliban’s Amr bil Ma’ruf wa Nahy an al Munkar (Command the Good and Forbid the Evil), a group of Islamic inspectors, was checking all the houses in the village every week to make sure that no one was watching TV, listening to music, or had equipment like CD players.

In my house we had a bunch of Indian tapes with an old tape recorder. It was a huge risk to keep these in the house, but the Taliban never found them. When the inspection group was coming to the village, my father and my older sisters would hide the tapes in the oven of an old, empty house. That house was scary and dark and surrounded by high towers. Most of the villagers did the same thing, they hid their TVs or tapes in secret places and covered their windows with big blankets in the hot days of summer so they could watch TV or listen happily to music.

I wonder how some people can be against others’ happiness. It is difficult for me to imagine my life with no music. Whenever I am tired, bored, or depressed, I listen to my favorite song. But there are some dictatorial countries that oppose people’s happiness and try to take it away in different ways.

Listening to music gives us a special joy; there are always nice words, beautiful wishes, and sometimes hopes within a song. Whatever gives happiness and joy to all people is not a bad thing. I am thankful for all singers, musicians, stars, and authors.

By Kamilah

Rock band Morcha (“Antz”), founded in Herat province, performs in Kabul. Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera.