Menisa Talash has joined a small, enthusiastic group of breakdancing dancers in Afghanistan, and a few months ago she was the only woman, and is already looking forward to representing her country in one of the most recent Olympic Games.
“I want to be different … I want to be a role model in Afghanistan,” said the 18-year-old dancer, as she waited for the start of a training session at a mixed martial arts center in Kabul.
Many conservative Afghans disapprove of dancing in all its forms, object more to women performing it openly, and some express their displeasure with the threat of violence against women dancers.
Talash says she has received death threats, but is still dancing.
Women are at great risk in Afghanistan. Militants have often targeted girls’ schools in the past two decades, and in May of last year, 24 women were killed, including 16 mothers, in a horrific attack on a hospital maternity ward.
Progressive Afghans fear that the gains made by women since the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001 will be jeopardized as the government engages in peace negotiations with the Taliban, which may end with giving the movement more influence in determining the country’s future, while the United States prepares to withdraw the remainder of its forces over there.
“Whenever I think about the possibility of the Taliban returning, and that I may not be able to continue practicing breakdance, I feel very upset … I want to be a model for a woman who has achieved her dreams,” Talash said.
The club to which Talash belongs was founded a year ago in Kabul, and now has more than 30 members, including six women, who meet three times a week for training in acrobatic movements.
Breakdancing is a form of art that first appeared globally on the streets of New York in the 1970s, and it is among four sports that the International Olympic Committee recently agreed to add to the 2014 Paris Olympics, in an effort to attract a younger audience.
The other three sports are surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing.