Both the Taliban and radicalized Pakistani society consider performers to be sinners. In Pashtun areas, a singer or dancer is known as damor beghairat (a person without a sense of honor). “We don’t have any respect in this society. People come to us just for enjoyment,” Nagina says. “Generally we are not considered morally good people.” Several of her neighbors, all very talented, were popular when they were young, she says, but everyone deserted them, and now they live a hard, lonely life.
This rejection by villagers coupled with an aggressive Taliban campaign against everything beautiful has made it difficult for artists to live decently. Compared to the conservative societies of the Pashtun tribes that live across the 800-mile border in Afghanistan, society in the Swat Valley has traditionally been more accommodating. This picturesque valley was once the home of the Hinayana sect of Buddhism and a regional center of Himalayan civilization that extended from Tibet to Kashmir.