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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

‘AFGHAN IDOL’ – The most hated woman in Afghanistan

Why? Because she dared to sing and dance in the TV final of her country’s version of American Idol. During her sedate routine, her headscarf slipped, showing her hair and outraging the war-torn country’s religious fundamentalists.

SETARA HUSSAINZADA is a shining beacon of hope for the peace-starved young people of Afghanistan. Yet the Muslim woman, 25, is now in hiding and too terrified to show her face.

She received death threats for her “blasphemy” on the Afghan Star show two years ago, was evicted from her home and now will not venture into the street without armed bodyguards. Setara admits that she was devastated when her fellow countrymen called her “loose” and said she “deserves to die” for dancing and showing her hair. She says: “I felt like a bird in a cage.

“Any artist who lives in Afghanistan and gets to some sort of popularity, especially females, they face a lot of problems from the people, especially the religious people.” The scarf moment was captured on a documentary made by British director Havana Marking. The docu, also called Afghan Star, is out on DVD on Monday and is the UK’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film.

Setara in headscarf pre-slipping

Setara says: “When I watched the film I had a very tragic feeling, it broke my heart. ”What kind of ground is Afghanistan made from? I’m still wondering, what is this country like, that the young people of this country cannot make their voices heard? I can’t bear it any more.

“Maybe hundreds like me have had their dreams killed because of these religious narrow-minded people.”

Headscarf going, going...

But her fellow talent show wannabe Tahir Shaqi says of Setara: “She has a nice voice but her actions on stage aren’t favoured by the Afghan people.”Setara did a very bad thing. Even if she wanted first place, she should not do that. Her life is in danger. She will pay a very big price.”

But Setara is unrepentant. She says: “It’s like they’ve never seen a person before. ”The feelings I had on stage made me act in this way. I always act according to my emotions. ”I wanted to lift the heaviness from my heart and music is the language of emotion. ”To be honest I didn’t feel my heart or blood or anything. ”Even if all my clothes had fallen off I would not even have felt it and so that’s why I didn’t care about the scarf.


“My heart couldn’t believe that I was voted out. When they said my name I felt like I had died. ”After the Afghan Star programme, those who were against me dancing, they didn’t like me and since then my life has been at risk.” Setara had been one of just three females among the 2,000 entrants to the show back in 2007. Adored by youngsters nationwide, she got as far as the last four before her dream turned to dust.

Desperate to become a world famous pop star, she has instead become a wanted woman.

She had the word “whore” daubed on her parents’ door in Hetar and was forced to move to capital Kabul, but is still afraid to walk the streets. She was initially evicted from one house and her new home is regularly spied on by suspicious neighbours.

Setara lives in hiding in fear for her life everyday

Under the Taliban it was made a crime to dance, listen to music or watch TV. But in 2001 the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was formed and in 2004, the restrictions on music and dancing were lifted. Afghan Star hit TV screens for the first time in 2005 and soon became a huge hit – watched by 11million Afghans, a third of the population.

Setara decided to enter even though women were heavily frowned upon. She says: “We had a lot of hardships during the time of the Taliban, every second was dangerous. We thought that if the Taliban caught us we would not be left alive.

For many Afghans the idea of democracy – even if only to choose the winner of a singing competition – was totally new. Thousands had rushed to buy television sets and mobile phones so they could vote in the show.

Despite a Taliban attempt to bring down the mobile phone network to prevent voting on Afghan Star, and pressure from conservatives in the government to axe the programme, it still continues.UK SUN

And this is the same Taliban with whom Obama wants to make a deal and pay off with hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars, while offering them a say in the Afghan government. Maybe he should ask Setara what she thinks about this?


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