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I was at my summer job when I heard news of Ghazala Javed’s murder. At first, it made me extremely sad – even teary – but the more I thought about her death and the way she died, the more it made my blood boil.

Ghazala Javed was – in my opinion – the most talented Pashtun female singer in perhaps all of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Her beautiful enchanting voice was unlike any I’d heard before. The most amazing thing about her was that she was actually leading a regeneration of both existing and emerging female Pashtun singers. And her boldness, courage, and support gave hope to many aspiring female singers, who wished to break social barriers (considering the never-ending threats they received from the Taliban and Islamic fanatics) in order to showcase their love and talent for music. Ghazala – the beautiful and talented woman that she was – really did not deserve to die the way she did. No one deserves to die so brutally and inhumanely! It was reported that she was getting ready for a musical performance and was on her way to a beauty parlour (with her dad), when they both were suddenly ambushed by gunmen and shot down dead, with multiple bullet wounds.

However, this isn’t the first time a female Pashtun singer has been tragically murdered. Bakht Zamina, a very beautiful and talented Pashtun singer from Kabul, was murdered by Islamic militants simply for the reason that she was a bold female singer. And then, just a few years ago, in 2009, another female Pashtun singer, Shamim Aiman Udas, was killed simply because her brothers (yes, her brothers!) were not happy with her having a singing profession despite their disapproval. She, too, like Ghazala Javed, was gunned down and killed. And let’s not even stop there; even Nazia Iqbal‘s – another very famous Pashtun singer from Swat Valley – life (as well as her children’s lives) were threatened recently. For, a few months ago, she’d announced that she was quitting music as she wanted to devote her life to Islam, only to find out later that she was actually forced to quit singing/music by religious fanatics, and that it was not of her own volition.

Consequently, brutal killings of female musicians happen quite often, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan. And Ghazala’s murder, to most, may not come off as much of a surprise. A shock, yes, but the murders of Pashtun artists (singers), especially female singers, is quite ubiquitous; especially in these parts of the world.

However, the question I want to ask is: Why? Why is this happening? And keeps on happening? Is it because music is considered “haram (forbidden)” and “taboo” according to the regions’ religion of Islam? Or is it more than just religious reasons? Perhaps it could even be political; the thirst for power and control?

In my opinion, it’s a bit of both – religious and political. Religious fanatics realize how powerful and influential music can be; they also know that if they give artists the freedom, especially women, to become singers and dancers, then that would mean that they are not doing their part to control and subjugate women, as per their “beliefs.” I also think that the notion of “honour” comes into play too. Most (yes, I purposefully said “most” instead of “some”) men feel that women should not dance nor sing, because “Islamically/culturally” women should not flaunt their selves and their bodies so freely, nor express their selves vocally, so that it would draw too much attention; hence objectifying them and making them prone to rape and other sexual advances. (Because we all know that women are, by nature, very seductive so they should not do anything that would lure the men, who, by the way, are nothing but sexual beasts, having no way of controlling their sexual urges.) Thus, in order to avoid bringing “shame” upon themselves, as well as to their families and the society as a whole, the best solution is to kill these women and use the notion of “honour-killing” as an excuse to justify the killer’s horrendous acts. Goodness! If that isn’t utterly despicable, then I don’t know what is!

The thing I don’t understand is that music, especially in our Pashtun culture, is extremely significant. In fact, it is so significant that we actually have exquisite dances like the attanr and beautiful, melodious instruments like the rabab. Music is not only a part of our culture, it pretty much is culture. The Pashto language, itself, is incredibly poetic; and tapays – a two-line poem – are often considered the most ancient and most powerful vehicle of expression, and it is especially popular among the women! And these are women, who express themselves, their social conditions, as well as romantic (taboo) emotions quite boldly through these two-liner tapays.

Nevertheless, I digress, as usual. But what I am trying to say is that, to me, it is extremely frustrating to see and hear about these young and talented artists (singers, poets, etc.) whose lives are inhumanely cut short, just because to some ignorant and backward-minded fools, they are partaking in something that is supposedly “forbidden.” There are times that I wish I could look inside the minds of these mad men and try to understand their narrow-minded perspective of the world around them. What exactly is going on in their utterly twisted minds? Don’t they feel any guilt? Any remorse? Any iota of shame for taking innocent lives – the lives of people whose music I’m sure they thoroughly enjoy as well? It’s such a catch-22! It’s like they enjoy the music, perhaps even partake in it when no one is around, but they can’t stand the sight of someone creating that same music (that they apparently love so much), and wish them all dead! And if it’s a woman, that’s even worse!

I just don’t know what will happen to us Pashtuns. So many innocent lives lost in this “war” on music; Pashtuns killing other fellow Pashtuns — my people killing my own people! It’s so incredibly distressing that I have no words left to say anymore. And the demise of Ghazala Javed is something that may perhaps take me a while to get over. A long while, perhaps. Her beautiful voice will haunt me every time I listen to her songs. May her dear soul rest in peace; as well as her father’s, who, too, died alongside her.

My husband, Abaseen (who was also Ghazala’s greatest fan) said it best:

“Ghazala Javed’s murder is like breaking the last rabab in the world. I had a dream that someday I will point out Ghazala to my kids and tell them that this is the only female Pashto singer whose voice I admire. Sadly that is never going to happen now. RIP Ghazala.”

Here’s one of my most favourite songs of hers. I absolutely love this song! There are more, but I’ll add them as I find them (some of the videos suck; this one is decent, so decided to share it, and of course the song is SO beautiful!!!):