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Afghan Star The American Idol of Afghanistan

Updated on April 16, 2012

Afghanistan's Version of American Idol

A far cry from 2001 when under the Taliban regime women were not even allowed out of their homes unaccompanied, and television and music were banned, Lima Sahar reaches a spot in the top three contenders of Afghanistan's version of "American Idol', called "Afghan Star." Out of 2,000 people who auditioned for a spot on the show, which is in its third season, Sahar has gained top ranking status and is the first woman to make it this far.

Lima Sahar One of Three Contenders on Afghan Star

Afghan ‘Idol’ Helping Women Progress

The debate rages as to the possibility of a woman actually winning the top spot in the show. Conservatives think that Lima Sahar is influencing the minds of "good girls" and should not be allowed to sing, while Sahar herself states that there can be no progress for women without upsetting the status quo. For many young people who have lived in the area of political conflict all of their lives, Sahar and "Afghan Star" are a look at a way toward a more positive future. It offers them hope and peace though song.

Braking rules of tradition, Lima Sahar dresses up.

Lima Sahar is a woman from the conservative Pashtun ethnic group located in southern Afghanistan, which was an area in which the Taliban-led insurgents had a stronghold. Kept home during the Taliban years Sahar at 18 years old has only an 8th grade education, speaking only one of the country's two main languages. Tradition requires that she still completely cover her face and head when she ventures outside of her home, but with the show that all has changed. Wearing a gold sequin flowered tunic and matching pants in electric blue with heavy makeup on her face, she has broken that rule.

Lima Sahar

Will ethnicity play a role in deciding the winner?

The three main ethnic groups in Afghanistan, Pashtuns, Hazaras, and Tajiks, are represented with the three finalists chosen for the show. Although ethnicity should not play a part in deciding a winner, it really comes down to the popular vote of the people. It is believed that most people will vote for their won ethnic group.

Sahar is seen as example to the youth of the country,

Nematullah Khan, a twenty five year old student at Kandahar University commented, "She took a bold step. She has a lot of courage. Whether she wins or not, she's a good example for our youth."

Afghan Star has a lot of similarities with American Idol.

"Afghan Star" has become one of the most popular shows in the country of Afghanistan. Similar to "American Idol" contestants are judged by a panel of judges. Unlike "American Idol" their comments are honest, but kind, obviously they don't have a Simon Cowell on board. The show starts with flashing white lights, pumping music, and then the host, Sediqi comes on stage and announced, "in the name of God -hello." The contestants are less animated than their American contemporaries, hardly moving at all as they sing, and wearing conservative attire. Their song choices consist of traditional Afghan songs that include flowery poetry. The winner receives $4,000 cash and a record deal. Voting is done by the fans as they text message in their vote.

Lima Sahar's comment at a recent news conference.

"Artists are historical and cultural in our country. Artists have been around a long time, I came by the vote of the people of Afghanistan."

Lima Sahar

The favorite to win, Rafi Naabzada

The odds-on favourite to win is Rafi Naabzada, 19, an ethnic Tajik, who calls the show "a symbol of unity".

He said: "Afghan Star belongs to all Afghans. My idea is not to get votes from just my tribe. I think that attitude is now finished - he's a Tajik or he's a Pushtun. But of course, we still have special support from those ethnic groups."

Gender is not a factor in popularity.

It would seem that quite possibly in a country where gender separation is so obvious, gender loyalties would be an issue, but they don't seem to be a factor. Most of the women viewers rush to the male singers for autographs and swoon over them like they are already stars. When one woman was asked if she would vote for a woman, she responded, "Yes, but on condition that she has talent."

Who will win?

It will be interesting to watch the outcome of the voters in the next few days. Who do you think will win?

On Friday night's episode, Sahar was voted out. "I am very happy to have come in third place," she said on the show. "This is an honor for me that the people voted for me. I really thank them and I also congratulate them."


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    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California

      Updated Information:

      On Friday night's episode, Sahar was voted out. "I am very happy to have come in third place," she said on the show. "This is an honor for me that the people voted for me. I really thank them and I also congratulate them."

      "Sahar and Afghan Star also highlight a cultural fault line in Afghanistan between West and East, modern and conservative. As some young people push more toward the West, switching out traditional tunics and beards for jeans and hair gel, many have rebelled, calling such behavior un-Islamic and anti-Afghan."

      The debate continues...

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      Thank you. I read the news this morning and was intrigued by this issue. As for myself, I have gotten bored with American Idol after the first couple of seasons, and even though a "Mormon" has a good possibiiity of winning, I hear, I have not had the energy to become engaged with it. This however, was totally interesting to me because of the women's rights issue that is present in Afghanistan. It also provided a way to look at how far they have progressed over the last few years in that area. Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting.

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      I must admit, I half thought you were joking when I read the title. Progress, progress, progress. Nice hub.