Fahima Mirzaie set up a dance school for women in Kabul, the national capital of Afghanistan, hoping to help her students fight depression and find inner peace in the South Asian country where dancing may be considered a taboo.
Some 20 young women have signed up for classes to learn Sama – a dance form that traces its roots back to the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi, who was born in present-day Afghanistan. Mainly involving swirling movements, Sama has spread in different Muslim countries and is most famously associated with the whirling dervishes.
DANCE FOR SELF-CONFIDENCE
The dance is a part of Sufism, a mystical form of the religion that emphasizes the inward search for God. Some other Muslims view mystical traditions as heretical. “I enjoy Sama, and when I do it, it gives me peace, and the sadness and difficulties of my life go away,” Fahima Mirzaie said.
“My life and my students’ lives have been changed by Sama. They have gained self-confidence, and even some of them who had depression are very happy,” she said. Women have won hard-fought rights in Afghanistan since 2001.
AFGHANISTAN’S NATIONAL DANCE
There are growing fears that gains made in social activities, education, and work might be reversed as the United States is increasingly interested in negotiating with rebels to end more than 18 years of war. “My concern is that the fate of our country is not yet clear. Our opponents call us mad and say such practices must not exist, but we will continue,” she said.
Afghanistan is mostly a tribal society with different regions having its own subculture. Nearly all Afghans follow the same traditions, celebrate the same holidays, dress the same, consume the same food, listen to the same music and are multi-lingual to a certain extent. Afghans enjoy music by playing many types of instruments. They also enjoy performing the Attan, which is considered the national dance of Afghanistan.