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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 13:41 GMT
Woman singer angers Afghan judges
Afghan man watches woman singing on TV
Women have not been seen singing on TV since the early 1990s
Afghanistan's supreme court has complained to the government over the appearance of an Afghan woman singing on state television.

"This has to be stopped," Deputy Chief Justice Fazel Ahmed Manawi told the Reuters news agency.

Afghan state television broadcast old footage of a rural song performed by popular artist, Salma, on Monday.

Afghan women singers have not been seen on state TV since 1992, when they were banned for being un-Islamic.

Equal rights

The mujahideen government and the Taleban - each of which controlled Kabul for part of the 1990s - did not approve of women performing in public or appearing unveiled.

Monday's footage marked the latest liberalisation effort by the moderate administration of President Hamid Karzai.

Afghanistan's Supreme Court has often accused media in the country of violating Islamic principles.

The proliferation of Indian movies and cable television have been heavily criticised in the past.

The appearance of Salma on state TV led to the first criticism of the media by the supreme court since a new constitution was adopted earlier this month.

The new constitution declared Afghanistan an Islamic republic in which women enjoy equal rights to men.

Higher profile

The controversial part of Monday evening's broadcast consisted of one song lasting about five minutes, shown at peak time.

"We are opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole," Judge Manawi told Reuters.

"This is totally against the decisions of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped."

The broadcast was defended by Information and Culture Minister Sayed Makdoom Raheen.

"We are endeavouring to perform our artistic works regardless of the issue of sex," he said.

Afghan women in Kabul
Women gained constitutional equal rights at the recent loya jirga forum

Women have gradually been gaining a higher profile since the fall of the Taleban just over two years ago.

Since 2002, some have presented news shows on television.

Monday's broadcast follows a switch at the top of Kabul Radio and Television.

Mohammad Isahaq was succeeded by Ghulam Hassan Hazrati, a close associate of Mr Raheen, a few weeks ago.

Another two music clips featuring women were shown on Monday night, one a religious song in Urdu to mark the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.

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