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Afghani singer challenged Taliban by music

Afghani singer challenged Taliban by music

June 20, 2019 12:48 AM
Afghani singer challenged Taliban by music

Afghani singer challenged Taliban by music

The first woman to win the Afghan version of American Idol says she will fight the Taliban with her music as her country faces an uncertain future.  Zahra Elham won the 14th edition of Afghan Star last week, after male contestants took the prize in the hugely popular televised singing competition 13 years in a row.

Zahra, from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority, enchanted audiences with her highpitched voice, performing Hazara and Persian folk music in traditional loose, colourful Afghan dresses. The result made international headlines at a time when many women in the patriarchal country fear their hardwon rights may come under threat.

Zahra, who spoke to a news agency in an interview at private TV channel Tolo, which produces Afghan Star, appeared taken aback by her new fame more than a week on.  “I was very proud of myself but at the same time shocked to be the first woman to win the contest,” the young woman in her early 20s said.

No one sings in her family. She was inspired to compete after watching YouTube videos of idols such as Aryana Sayeed, an Afghan pop singer and social media star often likened to Kim Kardashian. When asked if she, like Aryana, is now a role model for Afghanistan’s young women, Zahra’s response underscored the importance of her new platform in a country where women are largely absent from public spaces.

“Yes, my voice is important for the women of Afghanistan,” she replied. “Other girls will get courage and sing, like I have been following Aryana Sayeed... When I saw a girl like Aryana Sayeed, I thought to myself, ‘If she can, so can I. She has two hands and two legs, as I do’.”  Zahra, who is also a Justin Bieber and Maher Zain fan, says she has no intention of going in to politics. 

If the Taliban return to some semblance of power in Afghanistan, she says, “I will fight with my music, because I want to make my life music and singing”.  The Taliban used their strict interpretation of Islam to ban music and force women behind closed doors during their austere rule of Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted in 2001.



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