Zhakfar Hussaini

Farhad DaryaAiab Gul DeishadAziz GhaznawiBaktash KamranFazl-u-Rahman WahdatGhazal AhmadiNairezSafdar TawakoliSahar AfarinZhakfar HussainiClick to go to main page of 'The cage is singing'


25 February 2008

Zhakfar Hussaini was censor in Afghanistan Writers Association in Balkh in 1986-1992. Today he is a poet and a graphic designer. He is also head of Afghanistani PEN’s publication section.

Click on the photo two times to start the video. 

Wimpy Wasp Player

In this interview Zhakfar Hussaini explains the way song lyrics were censored in the communist period in Afghanistan. Read full transcription below.

If the video won’t play properly, we recommend you download the audio or video file before playing it: Right-click on the ikons, and choose ‘Save Target As’. (On a mac computer, press CTRL-key and click)

Video interview duration: 6:35 minutes.

The interview was prepared and edited by Samay Hamed in Kabul in Afghanistan in 2006-2008. Post-editing by Mik Aidt/Freemuse. Signature music: Safdar Tawakoli.

Click to listen to the audio track from this videoTo download: Right-click and choose 'Save Target As'

Click to read more about music censorship in Afghanistan

Transcription of the video interview

“My name is Zhakfar Hussaini. I am head of the publication section of Afghanistan PEN. What I know about music censorship…

I think it was in 1986 when the Khalq Democratic Party was in power… I mean the Purcham Branch of it was in power… In Balkh Province, in Mazar City, there was an institution named Afghanistan Writers Union which later changed its name to the Afghanistan Writers Association.
On the surface it was a trade union for Afghanistan’s writers but in reality I think it was the literary part of the party in power, this Afghanistan’s Writers Association which was active in Balkh as well as all of the country.

At that time, it was common that the provincial committee of the party in power – which was the Purcham Party – was sending the orders in form of circular letters to all writers associations as well as artists associations. Writers had to ‘build’ literature based on their orders in the letters.
I intentionally use the verb ‘build’ for literature.
For example a letter came from the Provincial Committee of the Party saying that poets should write poems about The Friendship Bridge. The Friendship Bridge is located in Hayratan and connected U.S.S.R with Afghanistan. And they sent a letter just to say that writers have to write lyrics about that bridge!

And sometimes they have sent letters ordering writers to write poems stories and literary works about Badabira. Badabira was a place in the southern part of Afghanistan where a lot of Russian soldiers had been killed.

At this time another writers association named Muslim Writers Association was established in the Mazar-i-sharif City (in Balkh Province). The Muslim Writers Association had secretly taken the rule of Afghanistan Writers Association in Balkh. And they introduced me as head of the Young Writers Section, and they put this responsibility, this job, on my shoulders.

On the surface I was in charge of that position which was supporter of the ruling party but secretly we were working for our own objectives. At that time I was also officially in charge of the music censorship. Based on an order from the ruling party, the Balkh Artists Union had to send all lyrics which were going to be used for songs to me who was officially responsible to censor them. It was my job to censor them. And after my selection and approval they could be used for making songs and be broadcasted from radio and television, and used in concerts.

So, what were the rules for censorship at that time?
For example, as a rule of censorship, if the word ‘green’ was used in song lyrics it had to be censored because the word ‘green’ symbolised opposition of the government. This ‘green’ word had to be censored and was never to be used in lyrics. Also the words ‘fresh air’ should be censored. And the same went for words like ‘height’ and ‘mountain’ because the opposition of those in power was mostly located in the mountains.

I remember that the guy who had the same responsibility before me had cencored the poem which said: ‘We hope for tomorrow, patriots’. The person who was responsible for the censorship had told the poet: ‘What do you mean by saying ‘We have a hope for tomorrow, patriots’? Tomorrow is already today – the rule of our regime. Which ‘tomorrow’ is it that you are hoping for?’

Anyway, in those days, only the poems and lyrics were censored, not the melodies.

This was all what I can say about music censorship in that period.”

This interview is a part of the Freemuse Special Report, ‘The cage is singing’

Read more about 'The cage is singing'

Read more

Go to top
Related reading

Afghanistan – special report: The cage is singing
Freemuse Special Report, ‘The cage is singing’, is an in-depth report with ten video interviews and a book about music censorship in Afghanistan – past and present
25 February 2008
Aiab Gul Delshad
Video interview with the head of Afghanistan’s Music Union, who is a famous folk singer. He was arrested once, and imprisoned and tortured another time, because of two songs
25 February 2008
Aziz Ghaznawi
Video interview with an authority on music administration in Afghanistan. He talks about how music was censored within Radio Television Afghanistan
25 February 2008
Baktash Kamran
Video interview with the lead singer in Kamran Music Group. He speaks about his experiences with music prohibition during the Taliban period in 1996-2001
25 February 2008
Farhad Darya
Video interview with Afghanistan’s star singer who gives examples of songs which were censored in the period of communist parties in Afghanistan, starting from 1979
25 February 2008
Fazl-u-Rahman Wahdat
Video interview with a Pashto folk singer and board member of Afghanistan Music Union. He speaks about the problems which a praisal singer faces when a regime changes
25 February 2008
Ghazal Ahmadi
Video interview with an Afghan film actress who explains that she stopped learning how to play the guitar because it became too problematic for her
25 February 2008
Video interview with one of the singers who were forced to sing praisal songs for the Taliban regime. He speaks about his problems with music censorship in this period
25 February 2008
Safdar Tawakoli
Video interview with a Hazara folk singer who explains about his problems as a musician during the Mujahidin period where power in the capital of Afghanistan was fragmented
25 February 2008
Sahar Afarin
Video interview with a 21-year-old Afghan singer who explains how she has been discouraged from music due to pressure from many sides.
25 February 2008
Zhakfar Hussaini
Video interview with a music censor. He worked as a censor in Afghanistan Writers Association in Balkh in 1986-1992
25 February 2008