Sonita Alizadeh raises her voice against forced marriage

Sonita is to me a strong figure of feminine resistance. I got to know her story thanks to a graphic novel by Pénélope Bagieu, a short biography that explains well her path to be read here. She fought to be heard and to defend her cause, which is by the way a noble cause and I want to share her story with you today.

Sonita Alizadeh is a woman born in Afghanistan in 1996. At only 10, she got married by force to a man (a marriage arranged by her family), and it was just a game to her until she quickly realized it wasn’t.

As a matter of fact, forced wedding is one of the things which constitute the tough Afghan tradition. Many children are forced wedded at a young age (12 millions of girls aged less than 18 every year) and become victims of many kinds of violence.

Afghanistan being occupied by Talibans, her family decides to run away from the country to go to Iran, and more precisely Teheran. So she barely escapes from the marriage. She finds herself in an NGO program to learn how to read and write, despite the refugee being side-lined in Teheran.

In Iran, Sonita tries, in vain, to sell the poems she wrote : “But with my notebooks in my bag, in this difficult situation in Iran, I felt like I was carrying drugs” she explains in an interview for francetv.

It’s in Teheran that her fate is about to change. One day, while she was cleaning, she heard an Eminem song. At this moment in time she decided to sing, despite the fact that women are prohibited to sing in Iran, to express her anger and her opinion on the oppressive regime of her country but more importantly, on forced marriage. In the meantime, her mother tries again to bring her back to Afghanistan in order to marry her off, which she refuses categorically.

It’s in 2015, thanks to the director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, that Sonita mushroomed. This woman asked Sonita’s mother to wait 6 months in order for Sonita to get bigger. That’s when her career took shape.

She recorded her first video clip « Brides for Sale », showing herself bruised in a wedding gown to insist on her anger towards forced marriage, with 600 000 views at the time.

“I think that this song isn’t only my story. It is the situation of a lot of people, friends that I lost. It is the story of a lot of girls worldwide. Sadly, they can’t express themselves. I’m trying to, with rap music, to be the voice of those who are not as lucky as I am” she says on francetv. Her video clip allowed her to go to the US to study thanks to an organization called « Strongheart ».

She becomes in 2016 the subject of Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s documentary entitled “Sonita”, which won the Sundace grand jury prize. Sonita gets involved in the collective Girls not brides, by becoming « champion » (note : the Girls not brides champions are influent people, helping the cause of children forced marriage).

Today, Sonita still fights for forced married women’s rights to bring more actions for the cause she defends. She is now a symbol of fight and determination for women and young girls victims of forced weddings.

écrit par Justine, translated by Alix