Soosan Firooz, the first female rapper in Afghanistan is just 23 years old. She made her debut with her rap, “Our Neighbors,” which is about her pain as a refugee with her family in neighboring Pakistan and Iran in the 1990’s. Seven years ago they returned to Afghanistan. Right now Soosan has only released one song, “Our Neighbors” and is performed in Dari, which is one of the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan. Her teacher and mentor, famous Afghan musician Farid Rastagar, composed the music for her rap. In Soosan’s music video for “Our Neighbors,” which recently came out on YouTube, she wore Western clothing and did not have a headscarf on, which is surprising because many women in Afghanistan wear headscarves in public and on TV.
As a result, because she is a female rapper in Afghanistan, some people call her on the phone and threaten to spray acid in her face. Her father gave up his job to protect her, because he was worried that his daughter was going to get hurt on her way to the studios every day. Even worse, because she does all these things and breaks the social norms in Afghanistan, some people in her own family have disowned her.
When Soosan first returned to Afghanistan, her family could not afford for her to go to school, so she got a job as a seamstress. However, when she and her family moved to Kabul, she became a soap opera actress and is now her family’s primary breadwinner, but she hopes to make it big with her rapping.
For “Our Neighbors,” Soosan Firooz did not write the deep lyrics to the rap. I find this interesting because it is very heart-felt, and it really seems like she wrote the rap herself. The songs are her ideas and what she thinks and feels about being in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. In fact, the composer of the rap, Farid Rastagar, hired Suhrab Sirat to write Soosan’s memories and ideas into lyrics.
In the rap, she says “I don’t know, I don’t know, oh my god, oh my god” in English, but then she says, “we have forgotten our own tongue” in Dari. In this part of the rap, she is showing that they have forgotten their own tongue by speaking in English. She is creatively using herself as an example in her rap.
Her decision to return to Afghanistan also surprises me because now that I live in the United States, I would not want to move back to Afghanistan. There are so many more opportunities in the United States, and I just feel like the U.S. is so much better. However, I understand why she is happy to be back in Afghanistan because for much of her life, she lived in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, which were not very clean or safe. She says that in these camps that half the people became drug addicts and the other half became terrorists.
I think what Soosan is doing is a great thing. She is expressing what she thinks and believes with what she loves doing: music. She is really brave even when people threaten to end her life and her own family disowned her. She still keeps going with her music and refuses to be suppressed. I look up to Soosan and hope that if something that difficult happened to me that I could be that courageous and brave and plow through all the judgment. I hope that she becomes more famous and people listen to her story and that her rap is spread throughout the world. I hope that maybe more women in Afghanistan see what Soosan is doing and see that they can make a change in Afghanistan. If more people come together for the same cause, they can make a difference.
Lyrics to “Our Neighbors”
Hear my stories and hear
Hear my sorrows, my sadness
Hear the story of my displacement and homelessness
We were lost, we were lost, lost around the world
War drove me out of my homeland
We were frozen, they wore us coffins
Expatriate begun, hardship begun
The stage of destitution, the stage of misfortune
Bullets showered us, our farm burnt to ground, our trees dried up
Tearful, we crossed the border
Like wingless bird, with no wings
Wings, wings, wings, wings…
We were lost, we were lost, lost around the world
In the country of strange our child was abused
Our educated ones became street workers
We ate our own body when we were starved
We drank our own tears when we were thirsty
We thought going to Europe bring us joy
We might find a living, we might end suffering
But we were stuck in the refugee camps
Where our skins were extinct
I dreamt kissing the dust of my homeland
We were kings and queens in our own land
But here, we are waiters and dish washers
”I don’t know, I don’t know, oh my god, oh my god” [in English]
We have forgotten our own tongue
We were human beings too but why abused?
We ran everywhere like worthless objects
In the country of our neighbor they called us ‘dirty Afghan’
In the line of bakery, they left us at end
What did we achieve in Iran and Pakistan?
Half became addicted, other half became terrorists
But, but we are hopeful now
United from now on
No more child abuse, woman abuse
No more going silent
We were lost, we were lost, lost all around the world
No more Europe, Iran, or Pakistan
From now on it will be Afghanistan
What is the politically conscious or socially conscious hip-hop scene like in your country or community?
Do you have female rappers?