Afghan province bans women performers on TV, radio

, April 17, 2004

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, April 17 (Reuters) - An Afghan province has banned women from performing on television and radio, declaring female entertainers un-Islamic, a provincial official said on Saturday.

The ban in Nangahar, a southeastern province heavily patrolled by U.S.-led troops hunting for Islamic militants, took effect from Friday and also covers women presenters of news and other information, the official said.

The decision echoes the strict imposition of sharia Islamic law imposed during the Taliban's repressive five-year rule of Afghanistan when television was banned, women were forbidden from working and girls were kept out of schools.

It also follows a heavily debated decision by Kabul Television in January to show an old tape of Parasto, a popular woman singer who now lives in the West, in a move that brought a controversial end to a long-running ban on women singers.

The warlords and private militias who were once regarded as the west's staunchest allies in Afghanistan are now a greater threat to the country's security than the Taliban, according to the interim president, Hamid Karzai.

The Guardian (London), July 13, 2004

Moderates have said showing women singers on television was in line with the new Afghan constitution as it gave equal rights to women.

But some provinces remain deeply conservative and provincial governors command broad authority over their regions, often in defiance of the central government.

Nangahar, which borders Pakistan, is one of several regions where the United States has stepped up a hunt for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and remnants of the Taliban militia that U.S.-led forces drove from power in late 2001.

Diplomats said Nangahar's ban would be seen as a setback for moderates in President Hamid Karzai's government in their battle with conservatives opposed to liberalisation since the Taliban's overthrow.

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