Afghan actors beaten for playing music

Channel NewsAsia,
, April 4, 2004

A troupe of actors have been beaten by university students in the eastern province of Nangarhar for playing music and allowing men and women to perform onstage together, National Theatre director Gul Makay Shah said on Saturday.

The team of 20 actors, which included four women, had gone to Nangarhar to perform shows to celebrate the Afghan new year which began on March 21 and which raised awareness about the country's upcoming democratic elections, Makay Shah said.

"We went to districts and villages, performed at schools and other places where we were warmly welcomed by people, respected, and they asked us to come back again and again," she told AFP.

But the experience at the university brought back memories of the repressive Taliban regime when women were barred from public life and stage performances and music were considered taboo, she said.

Initially the election awareness show, held in an auditorium packed with students, was well received.

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.

REUTERS, April 17, 2004

"Everyone was clapping and whistling in appreciation of the show but unfortunately it didn't last long," said Makay Shah, who witnessed the debacle from the front row.

When performers started to sound a drum, students wearing traditional shalwar kameez and turbans appeared from the backstage area and began to beat the musicians and break the equipment.

"They started to beat the male performers and broke our sound system and other equipment that I had begged and got from non-governmental organisations and other organizations to keep the theatre alive," Makay Shah said.

"We (women) were slightly hurt while getting out of the crowd through a small door but our male colleagues were badly beaten," the director said, adding that one man was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

"They even broke the windows of our vehicle but we managed to get out of the crowd alive and hide in one of my relative's houses far from the city. We drove to Kabul at 4:00 am the next morning," she said.


h t t p : / / w w w . r a w a . o r g