Ban on girls singing in Afghanistan reversed after social media campaign

Credit: AP

A ban on girls in Afghanistan singing has been reversed by officials following a social media campaign.

Last week a memo was sent to schools in the Afghan capital Kabul forbidding girls older than 12 to attend choir practice or sing at public events.

An exception was made for “ceremonies with 100% female participants,” the education department said, but that girls could not be trained by a male music teacher.

In protest, Afghan activists across the country, including prominent women, flooded social media with videos of themselves singing their favourite songs using the hashtag #IAmMySong.

The ban, announced two days after International Women’s Day, sparked international outrage, with some accusing the government of sympathising with the Taliban.

The campaign, started by Ahmad Sarmast the founder of Afghanistan’s Institute of Music, soon gained traction on Twitter, with some Afghan girls singing their favorite tunes for the camera and calls popping up for petitions to oppose the directive.

Turkish author Elif Safak was among those who shared a video of two Afghan girls singing, saying she had "so much respect for the young women" joining the campaign.

In light of the campaign, Afghanistan's education ministry scrambled to defend the memo, insisting it had been "misunderstood" saying it was a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

An investigation was launched into the Kabul branch of the ministry and its chief, Ahmad Zameer Gowara, who was responsible for the memo, a spokesperson said.

Following the announcement that the ban had been lifted, Helsinki's deputy mayor for culture and leisure, Nasima Razmyar wrote on Twitter: "Afghanistan tried to ban girls from singing. Social media showed support with #IAmMySong and made officials to reverse the ban. This is for you brave Afghan girls!"

The ban - and subsequent reversal - come as women’s rights groups are fighting to ensure that fragile human rights gains made over the last 20 years in Afghanistan since the US-led forces overthrew the Taliban - take centre stage in ongoing peace talks.

It also shows how the rights of girls and women are under threat from conservatives on both sides of the protracted conflict.