My name is Negin and I am the first female conductor of the first all-female orchestra in Afghanistan.
My life has been both fulfilling and exciting with its share of struggles and suffering. I grew up with members of my family, local police, and community members telling me to stop playing music– “a woman’s role is in the household and not in arts or in music.” I have been kidnapped, followed, and have been excommunicated from my province, only because of who I am–an artist, a musician, a conductor, a free-thinking human.
Eventually, I found my way to Kabul where I studied music at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). I have traveled to several countries representing Afghan musical culture, including playing with the Afghan Youth Orchestra in the United States in 2012, conducting the Zohra Orchestra in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and performing at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Last month, I escaped from Afghanistan because there was no other option for me and my family. If I stayed, I would have been killed by the Taliban either physically or spiritually. I don’t know which is worse. A life without music, without freedom, without my voice–or no life at all.
As you may have seen in the news, the Taliban have already destroyed all the instruments at ANIM—the school that made me who I am today. Several musicians have been brutally murdered. Music has been officially banned. Settling into my new life in the United States, I am determined to remain an influential figure in music and to continue to use my voice for the millions of women living without one.