Courageous feminist, Afghan rapper inspired by Eminem, now inspires others
Young, naive, and referred to as ‘property’. Sonita Alizadeh was as little as 10 years old when her parents first discussed selling her into marriage. At such a young age, a gorgeous, new, white dress feels like dress up, but Sonita quickly learned the difference.
Sonita grew up in Afghanistan. After (almost) selling Sonita to a man for marriage, her family fled to Iran to escape the tight control of the Taliban. Here, she cleaned bathrooms, secretly learned to read and write, and discovered something that would soon give her freedom.
Sonita discovered US rapper, Eminem. After listening to the Marshal Mathers LP, Sonita was inspired to write her own songs.
“I had heard rap before Eminem, but I hadn’t payed attention,” Sonita said. “When I heard Eminem’s music, I didn’t understand it, but the sound of it was so interesting to me. It made me think that I could fit a lot of words and a strong message into rap, and that was exciting.”
When Sonita was 16, her mother called for her to come back home (Afghanistan) to be sold for $9,000 to a man she had never met before. The money would then be used to buy Sonita’s younger brother a wife.
“Even if it [being a bride as a child] is considered normal, girls know that it is not right. Young girls who are still playing with dolls are given to old men and then they have their own babies,” Sonita explained. “They are afraid, and there are many health problems that come from this, too.”
Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, the director of the SONITA documentary, paid her mother $2,000 to keep her in Tehran (where Sonita was living) for six more months. In this time, Sonita wrote and produced a music video called “Brides for sale”.
“In Iran it is illegal for women to perform or record music without a man,” Sonita explained. “I could have gotten in trouble with the police.”
The video shortly got attention from not only woman in Afghanistan, but internationally. A US non-profit organization called Strongheart group, contacted Sonita to bring her to America.
The organization helps young people escape challenging backgrounds, to “rise above circumstance and excel.” And in this case, they helped Sonita rise substantially.
“I have always believed that I can have a future. Even in the worst times, I have always had a vision for my life,” Sonita said. “Having a vision for yourself is one of the most important things. I have also had a lot of support and help from other people, and their belief in me also inspires me to keep going. Mostly, I know that change needs to happen and it can happen, but it will take work. So I have to keep working.”
Sonita now lives in Utah, and with a full ride scholarship, attends Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, which is about two hours from Plain City. She’s takes English, Math, and Science classes, and still continues to rap and inspire women across the nation.
“Child brides are often abused. I have seen all of this first-hand, and I knew that I did not want it for my own life. So, I had to speak up. I had to do something.”