Zohra, Afghanistan’s all-female orchestra, goes silent under Taliban

Posted on: September 8, 2021

“Negin Khpalwak was sitting at her home in Kabul when she got word that the Taliban had reached the outskirts of the capital,” write Parniyan Zemaryalai and John Geddie in Friday’s (9/3) Reuters. “The 24-year-old conductor, once the face of Afghanistan’s renowned all-female orchestra, immediately began to panic. The last time the Islamist militants were in power, they banned music and women were not allowed to work…. ‘I felt so awful, it felt like that whole memory of my life was turned into ashes,’ said Khpalwak, who fled to the United States…. The orchestra, called Zohra after the Persian goddess of music, was mainly made up of girls and women from a Kabul orphanage…. Formed in 2014, it became a global symbol of the freedom many Afghans began to enjoy in the 20 years since the Taliban last ruled…. Wearing bright red hijabs, and playing a mix of traditional Afghan music and Western classics with local instruments like the guitar-like rabab, the group entertained audiences from the Sydney Opera House to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Today, armed Taliban guard the shuttered Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) where the group once practiced.”