Singer Aryana Sayeed told her 1.3 million Instagram followers this week that she was safe but “in a world of disbelief and shock” after fleeing Afghanistan in a crowded U.S. plane in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
“I am well and alive and after a couple of unforgettable nights, I have reached Doha, Qatar and am awaiting my eventual flight back home to Istanbul,” Sayeed wrote on Tuesday. “After I get home and my mind and emotions return back to normal from a world of misfortune and shock, I have many stories to share with you.”
Her husband and producer, Hasib, posted a selfie of the two of them aboard the cargo plane flying to Qatar, and then a photo of Sayeed asleep on a passenger flight later.
“She fell asleep the moment she rested her head right after we got on the plane scheduled to fly us out of Doha, Qatar,” Hasib wrote about his wife. “I was just staring at her and remembering just how bravely and how fearlessly she handled the most recent, the most difficult and most dangerous moments of her life.”
Sayeed, 36, and her husband live in Istanbul but she also keeps a home in Kabul, where she was born. She became a judge on The Voice of Afghanistan in 2013 and has also judged on another talent show, Afghan Star.
Masih Alinejad, a journalist from Iran who now lives in the United States, spoke with Sayeed after her flight to safety.
“She’s safe now, she’s in Doha [in Qatar],” Alinejad tells PEOPLE. “But she’s heartbroken.”
On Friday, Sayeed posted further updates to her Instagram Story indicating she was going to Kuwait.
Alinejad says that Sayeed made great strides for Afghan women and she fears the Taliban will turn back the clock and undo the progress she and other prominent Afghan women made in the past 20 years.
“She was the one who broke three taboos in one day: singing solo as a woman, walking unveiled and walking into a stadium from which women had been banned, where women had been hanged and flogged,” Alinejad says. “She told me when she left Afghanistan ‘it was like our dream shattered overnight.’ ”
Sayeed is one of Afghanistan’s most prominent female celebrities. For years, she had been criticized by conservatives and religious hardliners because of the way she dresses and dances in public.
In 2018, the Atlantic Council gave Sayeed its Freedom Award, saying there is “no greater expression of human dignity and freedom than making art, especially under the duress of war.”
Sayeed was lauded for refusing to cancel a concert in Kabul in 2017 after authorities said they couldn’t guarantee her safety.
“Her dedication to her cause at times meant that she had to trade dresses for flak jackets and fan clubs for bodyguards, yet she’s chosen to persevere, dedicating her music career to gender equality in Afghanistan,” Atlantic Council presenter Lydia Polgreen said at the awards ceremony.
Sayeed assured her social media followers this week that she was safe:
“In one of my last interviews I said that I would be the ‘last soldier to leave her homeland’. That’s exactly what happened now.”