16th April 2021
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#IAmMySong Campaign Reverses Ban On Girls Singing In Afghanistan

#IAmMySong Campaign Reverses Ban On Girls Singing In Afghanistan - TheatreArtLife
By Michelle Sciarrotta

Afghanistan faced a major backlash to a new law, with the #IAmMySong campaign resulting in the government reversing a ban on girls over 12 singing in public, implemented on 10th March 2021. Issued by Kabul’s Ministry of Education, the ban would have meant that girls aged 12 and up could not sing in public arenas, which would include any participation in singing the National Anthem of Afghanistan.

The #IAmMySong Campaign

In response to the announcement of the new law, girls and women across the country posted videos of themselves singing, using the hashtag #IAmMySong to raise awareness. Shamila Kohestani, the former captain of the national women’s football team, tweeted:

“In Afghanistan today the Ministry of Education suffocated the voices of our little girls by making it illegal for them to sing.”

In response to the outcry, the Afghan education ministry quickly retracted the order, stating that it was investigating the matter.

The preservation of women’s rights in Afghanistan has been an ongoing struggle in the country, especially as violence targeting high-profile women has grown recently with three female journalists killed this month and two female Supreme Court judges in Kabul assassinated by gunmen in January.

Ongoing efforts for women and girl’s voices

Ahmad Sarmast is the founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and is the creator of the #IAmMySong hashtag. He noted that: those defending the rights of girls and women are “not going to keep silent until the results of the investigation” are announced and the rights of girls to sing freely are fully protected. He further stated:

“This decision by the Ministry of Education is a clear violation of national and International legislation and laws in areas of basic human rights, child rights, women’s rights, musical rights, and the universal right to freedom of expression.”


ANIM is acknowledged as the institution which brought music back to Afghanistan and restored and ensured the musical rights of the Afghan people. During Taliban time, the people of Afghanistan were deprived from all their human and musical rights, including not having access to music education, to musical recordings, being denied their rights to listen to music and any rights to learn and/or play an instrument.

With the inauguration of ANIM in 2010, music was firmly reintroduced into Afghan society. ANIM innovatively uses the soft power of music in rebuilding a nation transforming lives, communities, and facilitating in the ethnic and intercultural dialogue within Afghanistan and internationally.

The following objectives are the cornerstones to ANIM’s mission:

  • Ensure the musical rights of Afghan people
  • Transforming lives and communities through music education
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering girls
  • Promote musical diversity and healing of the nation through music
  • Community outreach and social impact
  • Embracing cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue

Currently, ANIM hosts 300 students, with over 35% of the student body female and nearly 60% of all students are from economically disadvantaged families.

Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin is an organisation based in Northern Ireland, which was established in January 2004 to use Music, Arts & New Media as a tool for cultural education & exchange in an aim to address issues of racism & sectarianism. They design and facilitate innovative Music, Arts & Media projects that strengthen community relations, nurture peace processes, cultivate security, empower youth and promote interaction between different cultures.

Both Afghanistan National Institute of Music & Beyond Skin are members of Freemuse – an independent international non-governmental organisation advocating for freedom of artistic expression and cultural diversity. Freemuse has United Nations Special Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC) and Consultative Status with UNESCO.

5 Music Rights

Northern Ireland – Afghanistan Music Project

Since 2016 Beyond Skin and Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) have been working in partnership.

In 2020 a series of collaborative music productions began featuring young female musicians in Northern Ireland & Afghanistan. As part of the programme current & former students from ANIM will be collaborating with young female musicians in Northern Ireland leading eventually to Afghan Women’s Orchestra coming to Northern Ireland for a series of performances.


Afghanistan National Institute of Music Website

Beyond Skin Website

For stories for adult readers about women of modern day Afghanistan, A Mighty Girl recommends:

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

Accessibility At The Smith Center Series: Part One

James “Fitz” FitzSimmons Interview: The Boys In The Band On Netflix

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