Sonita Alizadeh (b. 1996)
Sonita Alizadeh grew up in Herat, Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban. Her family first
considered selling her as a bride when she was 10. She said that at the time, she didn’t fully
understand what that meant. Instead, her family fled to Iran to escape the Taliban. She then
discovered the music of Iranian rapper Yas and American rapper Eminem. Inspired by their
music, she started writing her own rap influenced songs. In 2014, Alizadeh entered a U.S.
competition to write a song to get Afghan people to vote in their elections. She won a $1,000
prize, which Alizadeh sent to her mother, who had moved back to Afghanistan.
Shortly after winning the competition, Alizadeh’s mother sent for her to return to Afghanistan,
saying she had found a man to buy her. She was 16. Her mother was trying to earn a $9,000
dowry so that her elder brother could purchase a bride, and thought she could get at least
$9,000 by selling her own daughter. (I can’t even…)
A documentary filmmaker, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, paid $2,000 to Sonita’s mother and
asked for six months of time for Sonita. She then wrote “Brides for Sale” and he filmed the
music video, which gained a lot of international attention. The video was not only popular with
women in Afghanistan, but also drew the attention of the nonprofit Strongheart Group, which
reached out to Alizadeh to bring her to the U.S.
Alizadeh currently lives in New York and attends Bard College. In addition to attending classes,
she continues to write songs. A documentary, called Sonita, premiered at the International
Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam in November 2015.
I find it interesting that she wears traditional clothing. My interpretation is that she is not trying to
completely negate her culture, she hopes to change it for the better. I felt the addition of SAR’s
rebellious graffiti energy is a good backdrop for Sonita. SAR (Charlie Giglia) was born in
Brooklyn, NY and raised in the neighborhoods of south Queens. He started writing in 1977 in
true graffiti form, tagging the insides and painting the outsides on NYC transit to the end of the
clean train movement in the 1990’s.