Even when her family threatened her, she never gave up her dream. Now she's living it.

Negin Khpalwak loves music more than most people love, well, anything.

Growing up in a small village in Afghanistan, she taught herself how to play piano, not revealing her musical interest or prowess to her family. Her passion had to remain a secret because music and playing instruments were considered blasphemous and strictly forbidden under Taliban rule.

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Many instruments and recordings were destroyed, and musicians caught disobeying the ban could have one of their hands cut off. The law effectively ended Afghanistan's vibrant and beautiful musical history. 


Students at an Islamic madrassa burn DVDs, videos, and music CDs in Islamabad, Pakistan, an event reminiscent of the early days of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Negin eventually confided in her father, who encouraged her to pursue her dream.

The rest of the family was less supportive, even hostile. While the country is no longer under Taliban rule, many people — particularly conservative individuals in smaller villages like Negin's — still frown on music and the fine arts, especially when performed by women. 

All GIFS via Business Insider/Insider People.

A few years later, Negin moved into a girls home in Kabul, while attending the Afghanistan National Institute for Music (ANIM).

Negin took up the sarod, a traditional Indian instrument making a resurgence thanks to music education programs like the one at ANIM.  The school and its hallways filled with beautiful music became a safe, welcoming place for Negin to plant roots and bloom into an accomplished performer. 

Negin played her sarod in Washington, D.C., as part of ANIM's three-city tour of the U.S. in 2013. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Now 19, Negin leads the Zohra orchestra, one of ANIM's ensembles.

The small orchestra is made up of a few dozen girls from ANIM playing western and traditional Afghan instruments

But despite their beautiful music, everything isn't always harmonious. 

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The musicians in the orchestra face scrutiny and harassment for performing — doubly so because they're young women. While many of their families are supportive, other neighbors and community members still speak ill of their decisions. 

Negin's brothers and uncles, for example, still aren't accepting of her career path, despite their sister's success. In fact, when she returned to her village for a visit, they threatened to beat her for performing on television.

But even in the face of hostility and threats of violence, Negin and her young performers remain resolute.

She's just as passionate and driven as the little girl who years ago taught herself piano in secret. 

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"I will never accept defeat," she told Retuers. "I will continue to play music. I do not feel safe, but when people see me and say, 'That is Negin Khpalwak', that gives me energy."

See Negin's story and watch her lead ANIM's Zorah orchestra in this video from Business Insider.

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Watch the full story:

Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

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Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

There are creative, romantic proposals, and then there's this one.

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film's most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that's only the beginning.

Watching David's face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler's illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That's when we all toss up our hands and say, "OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now."

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Nikic's journey to become an Ironman started off as a challenge far less lofty. He and his father, Nik, created the "1 percent better challenge." The idea was to keep Chris motivated during the pandemic and beyond. According to The Washington Post, the idea was for Chris to improve his workouts by one percent each day because he "doesn't like pain" but loves "food, videos games and my couch." The plan was to keep building strength and stamina while keeping his eye on the grand prize of completing a triathlon. Nik told the Panama City News Herald, "I was concerned because after high school and after graduation a lot of kids with Down syndrome become isolated and just start living a life of isolation. I said, 'Look, let's go find him something to get him back into the world and get him involved,' so we started looking around and we were fortunate that at the same time Special Olympics Florida started this triathlon program, and I thought, 'What a great way to get him started, get him in shape and get him to make some friends.'"


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