Young Afghan woman teaches Sufi dance in Kabul for "inner peace"
Fahima Mirzaie set up a dance school for women in the Afghan capital last year, hoping to help her students fight depression and find inner peace in a war-torn country where dancing is widely considered taboo.
Some 20 young Afghan 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 throughout the Muslim world and is most famously associated with the Whirling Dervishes. The dance is a part of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that emphasises the inward search for God.
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"I am optimistic about the Taliban joining the peace process," said Hussain, 19, who like many young Afghans grew up in neighbouring Iran where millions have taken refuge from war. He now works as a hairdresser in Kabul. "It will be an end to the war and conflicts in our country. I want the Taliban to change their policy and not behave like before"
Twenty-five-year-old artist Mahdi Zahak said: "There is hope for peace, but the only way we can have peace is if the Taliban accept the achievements made here in the past 17 years and let everyone enjoy their lives"
Seventeen-year-old Muay Thai athlete Kawsar Sherzad said: "Afghan females have had a lot of achievements in sports, so I am optimistic that the Taliban will accept these achievements"
Sultan Qasim Sayeedi, an 18-year-old model sports a hairstyle with shaven sides and a slicked back front called a "sinpogh", which he says turns heads on Kabul's streets. "We're afraid that if the Taliban come then we will not be able to hold our shows," he said. Despite that wariness, Sultan says it's time the fighting ended. "If American troops go, peace will come. We want peace," he added
Twenty-two-year-old owner of a luxury clothes shop Sohail Ataie said: "We are tired of war. What we want is peace to live a better life"
"The thing I'm most worried about is that if they return, I'll not be able to continue playing music," said Maram Atayee, a 16-year-old pianist who attends music school in Kabul. "It will be great if the government and the Taliban reach a peace deal. Access to music must be guaranteed for everyone and women's rights protected"
Twenty-one-year-old model Omid Arman said: "Everyone in this country desires peace. We've witnessed a lot of conflicts, it's enough, we don't want to witness any more tragedy"
Nineteen-year-old Nadim Quraishi posing outside his game zone shop said: "We want to see an end to the current conflict in the country. We are hoping for a lasting peace between the government and the Taliban"
Twenty-two-year-old Zarghona Haidari, who works at a book store, said: "I'm not very optimistic about peace in this country. I don't think the Taliban will make a deal with the government"
Eighteen-year-old Farzad Aslami said: "We want peace for the sake of our country's welfare. We don't want any more suicide attacks and explosions"
Twenty-two-year-old doctor Mohammad Jawed Momand said: "Peace requires everyone to lay down their arms and think about education and the prosperity of the country"
"I enjoy Sama and when I do it, it gives me peace and the sadness and difficulties of my life go away," Mirzaie, 23, told journalists in her classroom, located in a western neighbourhood of Kabul that has seen a number of attacks in recent years.
"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 the austere rule of the Taliban was ended by a U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2001. 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 the Taliban 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 on the path of Mawlana (Rumi)," Mirzaie said, smiling. (Reuters)