Sun. Apr 21st, 2019

The winner of the Afghan American Idol defends her rights against the Taliban

The winner of the Afghan American Idol defends her rights against the Taliban



The young singer Zahra Elham is the first woman to win the Afghan "American Idol" version, and she does it in a country where the Taliban banned music and the participation of women in social life, so she is not willing to let the insurgents take away those rights.

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"Afghan Star" is the most watched musical program of the Asian nation and since its start in 2005 only men had won it, until Elham took the first place last month.

The 18-year-old, whose family was forced to flee to neighboring Pakistan when she was 2 years old because of the conflict, told Efe that she was worried about a possible return to the political scene of the Taliban as a result of a hypothetical peace process.

"I am undoubtedly worried about a possible return of the Taliban, who would never accept a program like Afghan Star, especially if it includes women and girls," he said.

The insurgents have held several rounds of talks with the United States in Qatar in recent months, in which both sides have claimed to have advanced, but from which the Afghan government has been excluded.

Still, with or without Taliban in power, Elham's path to victory has not been easy.

"I have had to stand firm and break all cultural and social barriers to teach people that girls can win if they propose, and I am also confident that we can overcome the problem of a possible return of the Taliban," he said.

The singer, one of the nearly 2.4 million Afghans displaced by the conflict in Pakistan, decided seven months ago to travel to Kabul to participate in the popular vocal talent contest.

After six months of "hard struggle" managed to impose on the hundreds of participants, mostly men, and placed among the twelve favorites, finally crowned as the best singer in the edition.

"I can not explain how I felt that day, it was like floating, it was not a victory for me alone, but for all the women on this earth who have not allowed to show their talent and abilities because of cultural restrictions and threats from the conservative society, "he said.

Since the US invasion in 2001 ended the reign of the Taliban, women have made significant progress in the country and today make up 27% of all government officials.

But the frequent criticism of religious figures to "Afghan Star", a program that they see as going against the principles of Islam and that tries to pervert the Afghan youth, shows that there is still much to be done.

The victory has elevated Elham to fame, but it has also put his life in danger. Since winning the title, the singer has received an avalanche of threats on the phone and on social networks.

"To be honest, I live in fear because of a dark part of society." A mullah issued a death sentence on a video, he threatened to be stoned, "he recalls.

Another man, he says, exhorted her to become a housewife, "polish shoes, cook potatoes" and wondered "what the hell are you doing singing?"

But one of the worst episodes of violence took place a month ago when a taxi driver tried to kidnap Elham and tried to get her out of Kabul until he was stopped by the police.

In shock, he was about to jump out of the car, he recalled with a smile.

"It was the most terrible day of my life, because the incident took place when I needed to relax and prepare for the next show," he said.

Despite hatred and threats, the congratulations and requests of selfies of his followers make that having made the first place worthwhile.

"That gives me hope that our society has changed a little better, and now I see some tolerance and respect for women among our people," he explained.

His passion for music came through his father, who learned to play the flute when he worked as a pastor in his hometown in Ghazni, in the east of the country, although after winning the Elham contest he wondered how to continue his career as a singer .

Money tightens and for the first time in the fourteen years of life of the contest, the victory is not rewarded with a cash prize.

"The other day I visited a composer, who asked me $ 2,000 just to compose the song, so in total the song would cost about $ 7,000, an amount that I can not afford," he lamented.

The singer must also return to Pakistan, where there is no appropriate infrastructure to record her songs.

"My parents do not want to return to Afghanistan because of the explosions and suicide attacks, but after visiting them I want to return to Kabul, even without them," he concluded.

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