January 24, 2016
MT. PLEASANT, Sanpete County —
Utah student nearly sold for $9K subject of Sundance documentary
Geometry is a language many of us have trouble understanding, but imagine trying to comprehend it when you can’t understand a word the teacher’s speaking.
It was about a year ago that Sonita Alizadah first set foot in America, and began learning the language, mainly though pictures. She likens her experience to being deaf.
“You know, what do you call them?” she asked with a smile. “They speak with their hands.”
Sonita attends Wasatch Academy, a small school in the small town of Mt. Pleasant in central Utah.
“I love it!” she said. “Especially Wasatch, because Wasatch is the first real school for me. I have never been in a real school before.”
Sonita came here from Iran, but that country isn’t her home. Her family fled there from Afghanistan when she was a child.
“I don’t have any happy story, except shooting in the night, and a picture of Taliban in my mind,” she said.
Sonita had a cleaning job in Iran, which she likens to child labor.
“Life wasn’t easy because I was a refugee who didn’t have any papers or ID,” she said.
Her life in Iran is the subject of a documentary showing at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film bears her name, “Sonita.” One of its central events is when she receives a visit from her mother, who still lives in Afghanistan.
“My family decided to sell me,” Sonita said.
In Afghanistan, forced marriage is common. Sonita says it’s a tradition. Her mother wanted to sell her for $9,000, planning to use the money to buy a bride for Sonita’s brother.
“Forced marriage is like going to death for me,” she said.
Sonita isn’t your typical girl from Afghanistan. In fact, she’s not your typical girl from Iran, either. She’s gained quite a bit of notoriety all on her own through her music. Sonita’s a rapper — she first learned of rap music when she saw Eminem on television.
“I couldn’t understand him, what he was saying, but I realized I can tell something like him,” she said. “I can say my story like him, very fast.”