She didn’t win, but she’s still an Afghan idol

It’s called Afghan Star, modeled after all the Idol shows around the world, and if you happened to catch it last Friday, you were probably disappointed to see the plucky 20-year-old, Lima Sahar, voted off. She finished in third place, the highest of any woman in the show’s three-year history. If you’re an Afghan woman, just singing in public can get people to rail against you, even if you can "bang" it out better than William Hung.

Sahar, who comes from Afghanistan’s most conservative tribe — the
Pashtuns, thanked everyone who had voted for her. She also reminded the
audience that there had been very little music in Afghanistan in the
last two decades, which have been mostly consumed with war.

Under
the Taliban regime that was overthrown in 2001, women were not even
allowed out of their homes unaccompanied, while music and television
were banned. [Link]

Reporter: "People say that the Taliban loves to ban everything. Is that true?"

Taliban leader: "Yes, yes, we love to ban. That’s why we have the word ‘ban’ in Taliban."

Reporter: "What about women’s rights? Do you believe in them?"

Taliban leader: "Yes, yes, we do. That’s why we have the word ‘lib‘ in Taliban."

"I am very happy to have come in third place," Sahar
said on the show broadcast Friday night. "This is an honor for me that
the people voted for me. I really thank them and I also congratulate
them."

The country’s conservative cleric’s council has protested
to President Hamid Karzai over "Afghan Star" and Indian dramas shown on
Tolo TV, the country’s most popular station. But younger Afghans say
the show is helping women progress. [Link]

Progress comes in small steps. First you let women compete on Afghan Star, then you teach them how to program the VCR …

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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