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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 January, 2004, 11:17 GMT
Afghan press split over singers
Afghan man watches woman singing on TV
The path to corruption or welcome light entertainment?

The Afghan press is deeply split over the reappearance of women singers on TV.

Afghan state TV last week went ahead with broadcasts of women singers, who have long been absent from the small screen, after securing government support in the teeth of religious protests.

The Dari-language daily Etefaq-e Eslam describes the move as a "violation of the constitution" and calls on President Hamed Karzai to intervene to uphold Islamic law.

It protests not only against women singing on television but at the fact that those shown were not fully veiled.

Afghan TV has finally broken its dreary silence after a decade
Tolu-e Afghanistan

"Given the fact that respect for Islamic laws is firmly demanded in every article of the constitution, how could Kabul television employees dare to do this, since it completely goes against Islamic principles?" the paper asks.

Government officials come in for particularly sharp criticism from the paper for their perceived silence which, it argues, is a sign of their "acquiescence".

The weekly newspaper Mojahed argues that singing and dancing bears little relation to the question of women's rights.

"Do Afghan women enjoy more rights if more female singers appear on Afghan TV?" the paper asks.

"Those who regard women as a means of satisfying their lust and voluptuousness and as a toy call their singing and dancing art. They call the corruption of women human rights."

Women can better achieve their rights and live more "honourably", according to Mojahed, through adopting what it calls "their natural role in society".

'Much-loved artists'

But weekly newspaper Tolu-e Afghanistan is delighted by the reappearance of female singers on television.

"Afghan TV has finally broken its dreary silence after a decade," it says, "and the beautiful sound and image of the famous Afghan entertainer, Salma, appeared on TV screens and reached our ears.

"The people of Kabul and the whole of Afghanistan wish to see Salma and all other much-loved artists from abroad appearing again on the stages of the capital and the provinces."

The paper says Afghanistan's reformers and conservatives have been squaring up for battle over the issue of women's rights and that the reformers, backed by the younger generation, are now growing more confident.

The government-funded Kabul Times likewise is in favour and argues for a realistic stance.

"If watching the faces of any female is a sin, as fanatical elements believe, then they should ban television and CDs altogether," the paper says.

Trouble ahead

Kabul newspaper Erada, meanwhile, gives an indication of further trouble to come over the issue.

It says Esmail Khan, the conservative governor of Herat who controls much of western Afghanistan, has "harshly protested" against the broadcasts and called for them to end.

The paper reports that the governor - "who has a personal interpretation of Islam" - has ordered the confiscation of music and video tapes in the city.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Afghan singer Mahwash Salma
singing in Pashto

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