Afghanistan's Supreme Court protests women singing on TV

, Jan.15, 2004
By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, Jan 15 (Reuters) - In an embarrassing setback for moderates in Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government, authorities have reimposed a ban on women singing on state television just days after it was lifted.

The decision to restore the ban followed a protest from the Supreme Court, which is dominated by religious conservatives, officials said on Thursday.

On Monday, Kabul Television featured old footage of Parasto, a well-known singer who now lives in the West, performing without a headscarf.

Officials said the move was in line with a newly approved constitution giving equal rights to women.

But the Supreme Court wrote in protest to the Information and Culture Minister Sayed Makhdoom Raheen saying the decision to lift the ban was in defiance of its rulings.

"Women are half of men"

Mr. Sighbatullah Mojadeddi, Chairperson of the Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga, in regards to the human rights and civil rights:

"We all have to respect the vote. Women are free to vote for men. Men are free to vote for women. We cannot make this separation... Do not try to put yourself on a level with men. Even God has not given you equal rights because under his decision two women are counted as equal to one man."

The New York Times, December 16, 2003
By Amy Waldman

"We were told to stop airing the songs on Wednesday evening and we did so," an official of Kabul TV said.

Raheen was seen as the key figure behind the lifting of the ban. "I have nothing to say about it now," he said when asked about its reimposition.

Deputy Chief Justice Fazl Ahmad Manawi told Reuters on Wednesday the Supreme Court was "opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole" and added: "This is totally against the decisions of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped."

The ban was justified, since the constitution stated clearly that no laws could be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam, which did not allow for women singers, Mawani said on Thursday.

"If the songs are aired, that means the Information Ministry would be the first organ of the government to violate the constitution."

The ban had been in force for nearly 12 years since a government of mujahideen, or Muslim holy warriors, replaced a communist regime in Kabul.

In 1996, the even more conservative Taliban replaced the mujahideen and banned all television as part of its strict imposition of sharia, or traditional Islamic law.

The latest flip-flop is an embarrassment and a setback for moderates in President Hamid Karzai's government in their battle with religious conservatives opposed to liberalisation since the Taliban's overthrow by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

The initial removal of the ban came weeks after the replacement of the conservative head of Kabul Radio and Television.

Ghulam Hassan Hazrati succeeded Mohammad Isahaq, a key official in the Northern Alliance faction, which is mainly composed of mujahideen groups and forms the backbone of Karzai's government.

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