Sonita Alizadeh and her family had been refugees for as far back as she can remember. War in their homeland Afghanistan forced them to flee to neighboring Iran where she worked as a janitor at a charity. She also got trained in karate and music, which developed her passion for singing, especially rap.
Her mother wanted to marry her off – mostly because it meant a dowry from the husband-to-be that the family could use.
Imagine the plight of a 15-year-old being told, “You have to return to Afghanistan with me. There’s a man there who wants to marry you. Your brother’s engaged and we need your dowry money to pay for his wedding.”
However, being sold in to a marriage was not something Alizadeh would succumb to, so she stood up against her family and refused to budge.
Surprisingly, her outrage came out in the form of music.
Even if you can't understand the words, just watch the video -- there's no missing the anger, pain and determination that drives Alizadeh's song.
Here’s how she combated her fate:
Alizadeh’s anguish is plainly visible in “Brides for Sale.” It shows a bruised 15-year-old girl dressed in wedding clothes with a barcode on her forehead pleading with her family not to sell her.
“Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia. Women must remain silent… this is our tradition,” she starts the song stealthily in shadows, whispering her distress.
“I am seen as a sheep grown only to be devoured,” Alizadeh sings as she pours her feelings out in the song.
Her anguish reached far and wide, taking her pain and the feeling of helplessness with it.
Life in Afghanistan is not easy for anyone, and less so for women. From forced child marriages to being denied the most basic of human rights and liberties, there’s a Sonita in almost every household.
But they are no longer someone to be subjugated, they have become a force to be reckoned with, from raising voices for their rights to holding prominent (even if life-threatening) public positions, there’s no stopping them.
Alizadeh has been one of the lucky ones as well. She is no longer a little girl fleeing from a forced marriage in exchange for a dowry. She is a young woman the world is gradually learning about.
Alizadeh is also learning about the world as she travels to spread her message and throwing a light on the plight of millions like her.
In May 2015 she traveled to the United States, performed in a concert, met new people and experienced a different world.
But perhaps the biggest achievement was her parent’s finally seeing her point of view and giving in.
“It means so much to me that my family went against our tradition for me. Now I’m somewhere that I never imagined I could be,” she said
The young rapper is now studying in Wasatch Academy, an international college prep boarding school in Utah.