Afghanistan’s First All-Women Orchestra Goes Global

To be a woman in Afghanistan is a challenge. Oppression, discrimination, negligence and abuse are synonymous with their daily lives. Though Taliban control is not as strong as it used to be in this Asian country, influences of the terror group are still felt around. Women are generally forced to wear an all-encompassing burqa in public and barred from working outside their homes. 


However, no threats or insults can silence a woman eternally as her efforts to break free from the handcuffs of dominancy are always more powerful. And Zohra, a unique all Afghani female orchestra is a testimony to that. Not only did they come up with the orchestra in a country where music was outlawed by the Talibans, but also visited and performed in the UK for the very first time.


Two decades ago, bringing in music to Afghani people’s lives were beyond the bounds of possibility due to Taliban influence. But founder Dr. Ahmad Sarmast’s toiling efforts allowed the National Institute of Music to see first light in 2008. And five years ago, Dr. Sarmast was urged to benefit the ignorant gender of his society, thus creating Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female musical ensemble.

The all-female orchestra performed in Davos at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. The musical performance was a world first, both for the performers and the audience. Davos was clearly just the beginning for them as the orchestra embarked on a European adventure that included concerts in Geneva, Zürich, Weimar and Berlin. And this time, the passionate musicians set the stage on fire in the UK.

The all-women musical ensemble has indeed proved that courage comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. It’s a moment of pride to witness women’s determination being heard and their standing grit being counted.

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