Lawmaker: Government may be stopping women from acting to fulfill public demands

By Jenn Ridder-Mowry

While the Taliban still deny waging a campaign of violence against women, the Afghan government and international donors are struggling to find ways to protect women from social persecution in a country struggling to revive a shattered national economy.

A state-run media outlet said Monday it had ordered female actors and actresses on television dramas to stay home, in what is believed to be the first such edict since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. That would mean no more important roles in the Afghan version of “The Sopranos” — when “daughter’s daughter’s dog didn’t bark at my brother” — now played by Nasima Mohammadi. Or even the ghost of a television actress like Saadia Seddiqi, who plays the plastic surgeon whose husband leaves her for the schoolteacher on “Supermodel.”

“There is no place for women in this drama, if it is not for Islamic teachings,” said Najibullah Ahmadzai, director of the Afghan Islamic Channel, which broadcasts the dramas, in remarks to the Afghan television program “Tashnoo.”

An Afghan lawmaker said the order to stop women from acting may be a tactic used by the government and international donors to satisfy public demands for change.

“A government which is in power but does not have any other type of power is not able to prevent these radical Islamic forces, [who] now have influence in society, [from] threatening women,” said Gula Jan Babayan, a member of the parliament. “It is their main job to eliminate women from our society and [who] have to stop them. They are trying to get all the celebrities on their side.”

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