Sonita Alizadeh fled Afghanistan when she was 8 years old because of war, and wound up in Tehran, Iran's capital city. That's where she started participating in a nonprofit that taught undocumented Afghan kids and learned karate, photography and guitar. She also began singing and rapping, as reported by Public Radio International.
Everything was going great. Sonita's music quickly got recognition, she met an Iranian director who helped her make music videos, and that led to a few awards.
Then one day her mother told her that she needed to return to Afghanistan, where a man wanted to marry her. Her dowry money was needed, according to her mother, to pay for the wedding of Sonita's brother. That's when she turned to her music to express the outrage at being sold off into marriage.
Sonita wrote the song "Brides for Sale." The song begins, "Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn't be heard since it's against Sharia. Women must remain silent … this is our tradition."
In the video, Sonita is bruised and baring her soul, expressing the frustration that she could be sold off like a sheep. She was afraid to show the video to her parents, but they actually liked what they saw and said that she didn't have to get married. Then Sonita was offered a full scholarship to an arts academy in Utah. Now 18, she is living a much different life than her parents had planned for her halfway across the world.
"It means so much to me that my family went against our tradition for me," Sonita told PRI. "Now I'm somewhere that I never imagined I could be."