Afghanistan clerics upset as woman makes final of 'Pop Idol'
IN A first for post-Taleban Afghanistan, a woman has made it to the final three in the country's version of Pop Idol.
Lima Sahar, from the conservative Pashtun belt, is up against two male contestants tonight for a place in the final sing-off on Afghan Star, which has become one of the nation's most popular television shows.
Conservatives decry the fact that a woman has found success singing on TV, while others – younger Afghans – say the show is helping women progress.
Under the Taleban regime that was overthrown in 2001, women were not even allowed out of their homes unaccompanied, while music and television were banned.
With her hair tucked under a headscarf, Lima brushes off her critics, saying there can be no progress for women without upsetting the status quo. "No pain, no gain," she told reporters.
Lima saw off 2,000 other hopefuls who auditioned for the third series of Afghan Star, in which viewers vote by text message. The format is similar to Pop Idol – the singers perform in front of a studio audience and three judges, and past winners have been given recording deals.
Afghanistan's clerics' council has protested to the president, Hamid Karzai, over the show. "In the situation that we have in Afghanistan right now, we don't need a woman singer. We don't need Afghan Star. We are in need of a good economy, good education," said Ali Ahmad Jebra-ali, a member of the council. "If Lima Sahar wins Afghan Star, how can she help the poor? This is not the way to help the Afghan people."
Haji Baran Khan, a farmer from Kandahar – the Taleban's spiritual birthplace and the city Lima now calls home – said a Pashtun girl singing on TV went against the country's culture.
"She is also affecting the minds of other good girls. She should stop singing," said Khan, whose three sons and two daughters told him about Lima's success.
She says she's just the latest in a long tradition of Afghan artists – albeit in a more modern form. "Artists are historical and cultural in our country. Artists have been around a long time," she told a news conference. "I came by the vote of the people of Afghanistan."
Several hundred supporters lined up to get the three finalists' autographs at an event in Kabul.
The three finalists represent each of Afghanistan's three main ethnic groups: Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks. Shohabidin Mohammad, an ethnic Hazara who was at the event in Kabul, said he didn't believe ethnicity should play a part in the vote. But he acknowledged, somewhat sheepishly, he will vote for the Hazara finalist – Hameed Sakhizada.
Standing beside him was Abass Nariwal, a fan of Lima's and, like her, an ethnic Pashtun. Another of her fans, Nematullah Khan, is a 25-year-old student at Kandahar University.
"She took a bold step. She has a lot of courage," he said. "Whether she wins or not, she's a good example for our youth."
THREE TRIBES, THREE SINGERS – WHICH WILL WIN?
THE winner of this year's Afghan Star will take home the equivalent of about 2,500 – a king's ransom in Afghanistan.
The odds-on favourite to win is Rafi Naabzada, 19, an ethnic Tajik, who calls the show "a symbol of unity".
He said: "Afghan Star belongs to all Afghans. My idea is not to get votes from just my tribe. I think that attitude is now finished – he's a Tajik or he's a Pushtun.
"(But] of course, we still have special support from those ethnic groups."
That is what bothers Mohammad Qasim Akhger, an independent political analyst. He says the most talented singers aren't necessarily the ones who get voted through.
"Now there is one Pushtun, one Hazara and one Tajik, so what will happen is that nobody will care about their talents; they will just vote for their tribe," he said.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west