Afghan court protests at women singers

Afghanistan's Supreme Court has protested against the lifting of a ban preventing women singers from performing on state television.

    Judges fear female dancers will lead to disrepect of women

    The legal body said the practice was un-Islamic, should not be repeated and did nothing for the respect within which women are held.

    State TV showed female performers singing as part of TV changes introduced under the government of interim President Hamid Karzai.

    But Deputy Chief Judge Faisal Ahmad Manawi told reporters on Wednesday all judges were "opposed to women singing. We totally oppose this decision".

    "The Supreme Court's high council last year banned women singing and we still insist on our decision. It should be banned."

    Monday indulgence

    Monday night's broadcast included a video clip of Salma - a famous singer in the 1970s and 1980s - singing a romantic ballad about being a refugee.

    At least two other music clips featuring women were also shown, of which one was a religious song in Urdu.

    It was the first time since the fall of the communist regime of president Najib Allah in 1992 that Afghan public television has shown such images.

    When TV cable operators started broadcasting in Kabul in early 2003, the Supreme Court protested and for a while cable television operators were unable to broadcast.

    But they began operations again shortly afterwards, this time without official permission, and still operate without official sanction.

    There are at least a dozen cable TV operators in Kabul, broadcasting mainly entertainment programmes in Indian languages and English, but also some news.

    Letter of complaint

    "It is up to the government to implement the decisions made by the legislative and judiciary forces of the country"

    Faisal Ahmad Manawi,
    deputy chief justice

    Manawi said the Supreme Court had written an official letter to the ministry of Information and Culture, the key government department controlling all broadcasts and publication.

    The ministry is seen as the main authority behind ending the ban on women singers.

    When asked what the court would do if the government continued to defy its rulings, Manawi replied: "We just show our opposition. It is up to the government to implement the decisions made by the legislative and judiciary forces of the country."

    By international standards, Karzai's US-backed government has a long way to go to get rid of religious sentiment that frowns upon women dancing in public for popular entertainment.

    Women's TV presence

    Under the Islamic Taliban government, ousted by the United States in 2001, television was banned and even photographs and images of living beings were illegal.

    Photo studios were only able to take passport photos as these were necessary.

    Under the post-Taliban government of Karzai, women have made their way back to the small screen.

    Since 2002, women have presented news shows but that has marked the limit of their screen presence.



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