Aryana Sayeed is the new face of feminism in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for women: modern Afghanistan.
The 28-year-old pop star is a celebrity judge on the country’s version of The Voice. The talent show launched in May and immediately attracted a large fan base, but also criticism and death threats aimed at Aryana for refusing to wear a veil on screen.
“They told me that they would kill me,” she says of the online abuse and daily threats she receives on Twitter and other social media. “Some of them said even if you are not in Afghanistan, wherever in the world you are, trust me I will kill you.”
Though born in Afghanistan, Aryana was raised in Europe and has become a rare female voice in her country where she has a growing legion of young female fans.
“Women have no rights whatsoever here, so I want to be an example of somebody who is constantly fighting [for gender equality],” says Aryana.
And the threats seem to have strengthened Aryana’s resolve to continue to bring hope to the women of Afghanistan, encouraging them to break the norm and strive towards a life and career outside the walls of their homes.
“I'm here to make a difference for women, I want women to have rights, to talk freely, to walk freely, to be able to go shopping when they wish,” she says.