Afghan woman challenges convention through rap

Sosan Firooz is Afghanistan's first female rapper, performing in front of men in western clothes without a headscarf
CBS News

(CBS News) KABUL, Afghanistan - Stage performances by women are definitely not appreciated in Afghanistan where the group Human Rights Watch said last week that advances for women are at risk as the draw-down of international troops continues. Here is the story of one young woman who supports her family by challenging social convention at great personal risk:

By day, in her family's modest mud home, Sosan Firooz is a typical young Afghan woman.

But by night, this 23-year-old is busy making history. She's Afghanistan's first female rapper, performing in front of men, in western clothes, and without a headscarf. In this conservative country, it's not just unusual -- it's revolutionary.

Asked if she thinks she's a rebel, Sosan said: "Everyone wants to be unique, to do something no one else has done before."

Her songs are not about broken hearts or flashy cars. Instead, she sings about the painful years her family spent in Iran as refugees when her father fled war-torn Afghanistan in 1990.

"'They called us dogs, they turned Afghans into addicts and terrorists,'" Sosan sings into the microphone. And she also sings about the problems in her own country: "'We want to end cruelty against women and children'."

"Yes of course it's difficult," she told me about her life in Afghanistan. "But it's easier than being a refugee."

Eleven years after the fall of the Taliban, some women still wear burquas. Some are sent to prison or stoned to death for adultery. Even singing on stage isn't completely safe.

Music producer Fared Rastagar recorded Sosan's song. "Some female singers have stopped singing because of threats from the Taliban. Some have left the country," he told me.

Sosan's song has been played on YouTube more than 75,000 times. She's won praise, but she's also been warned to stop with threatening text messages--and recently, an anonymous phone call to her mother. "They toldf her 'If your daughter appears on TV again, we will cut off your head,'" said Sosan.

So why does she do it? "How long should we keep this silence?" asked Sosan."There's a need for people to rise up. And others should follow."

Despite so many risks, Sosan is working on a new song, about what it's like to be a young woman in her Afghanistan.