By Arezo Rahimi
The Taliban had ruled Kabul for four days when Manizha Talash, 18, the only female member of an Afghan hip hop group, understood she was not going to be evacuated. She had appealed to three countries; none had even responded.
Shortly afterwards, the Taliban broke into their studio where they would make music and broke their equipment. The group, called AK13, decided they must leave the country by any means possible.
Talash, dressed in a long black covering, took her 13-year-old brother by the hands, and went to join the rest of her group, who were waiting a few streets away.
They walked barefoot, they ran, and crawled under barbed wire in the middle of the night. “I left my country because I wanted to continue my work,” Talash said.
When the team made it to the Pakistan border, Talash saw how Taliban soldiers were beating the crowds waiting to cross the border. “My fear shot up in seconds. All our members have tattoos on their hands and wrists,” she told Rukhshana Media. “If one was to be discovered, we would all be discovered.”
The boys concealed their tattoos with scarves and Talash covered her face. “It was very hard because I wasn’t used to it.”
“I was very scared because the Taliban were beating everyone, including three of our team members,” she said, adding that the bruises lasted for a month.
AK13’s repertoire is small but powerful. The group has released three songs, including one that directly criticises the Taliban. The name is a combination of the AK-47 automatic rifle and District 13 in western Kabul, a poor Hazara-majority neighbourhood where most of the group lived.
The lyrics of their last song, “I am”, released in October last year, is a direct rebuke of the Taliban: “I am a generation full of ingenuity, deprived and rejected. I am the real guardian [of the land], unlike a Talib.”
Talash who practiced breaking dance, beatboxing and graffiti, found her motivation in hip hop. “It helped me recover from depression,” she said, adding that she has suffered from depression since her father died five years ago.