Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Women Sing Softly on TV

By Lailuma Saded in Kabul (ARR No. 111, 24-Mar-04)

With the singers standing or sitting in a stiff pose, the performances being broadcast now were filmed more than 15 years ago, when the Soviet-backed regime was in power. (See: The Talk of Kabul: Women Sing on Television

The one exception is a children’s lullaby performed by the singer Wajih, who recorded the song abroad during the Taleban era.

Azizullah Aria Far, the head of broadcasting at Radio and Television Afghanistan, said that the company would like to record new songs but lack the money and production capability.

He acknowledged that the broadcasts are becoming more frequent, "At first, there was one song every 24 hours; now two songs by women are broadcast [every day]."

Due to popular demand, the overall amount of programming dedicated to women’s interests has also increased, Aria Far said.

He is careful only to use images of women appropriately clad in headscarves and performing conservative songs, so as not to cause offence.

In January, the surprise showing of a Soviet-era clip of popular singer Salma caused great public excitement, and was a highly visible sign of the battle between liberals and conservatives in authority.

Deputy supreme court justice Fazal Ahmad Manawi insists that the ban on television broadcasting female singers remains on the books. "No change has taken place in our decision,” he said. “This is not the opinion of one person; this is the decision of the judiciary of Afghanistan."

Lailuma Saded is an independent journalist in Kabul.

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