One of Afghanistan’s most controversial pop stars, Ariana Saeed, famous for her figure-hugging outfits, has vowed to go ahead with a fundraising concert in the capital Kabul on Saturday amid threats from conservatives who oppose women singing in public. The show’s location is being kept secret following deadly militant attacks in Kabul, such as during a 2014 play in the French cultural centre, and criticism of the event on Facebook.
“I will do it regardless of any consequences,” Saeed said by phone from Kabul. “We have already sold more than 4,000 tickets, which shows how people love music, dancing and happiness.” The date is significant for women as is the anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence in 1919 under King Amanullah Khan, a modernist who campaigned against the veil and polygamy.
Women performing in public is regarded as inappropriate in the conservative Muslim nation. “We will not allow such dances and acts of disbelief in our society,” Ataullah Faizani, a member of Kabul’s provincial council said in a phone interview. Saeed’s fans are determined to attend, despite the risks. “Stopping Ariana Saeed’s concert is an attack on all women’s identity and freedom,” Bahar Sohaili said on her Facebook page. “We won’t let this happen to us. I will go to this concert.”
Saeed will donate money from the show to families displaced by last week’s militant attack on Mirza Olang village in northern Afghanistan, which killed at least 62 people with the number expected to rise. The Taleban and Islamic State both claimed responsibility for the attack, in which victims were buried in mass graves. “This country has deep-rooted problems to be solved,” said Saeed, who many Afghans compare to reality television star Kim Kardashian for her long, straight black hair and glamorous dress sense.
“My voice represents peace for my people and a ray of hope for the girls of this country.” Saeed has received numerous death threats from religious figures and conservatives who say her western outfits and public appearances flout Afghan culture. In addition to singing, she judges the Afghan version of The Voice talent show. Saeed publicly burned a skin-colored dress in May which she wore at a concert in Paris after critics said she looked like she was naked.
Islamic scholars in Bamiyan Province tried to stop a music festival in June but failed following a public outcry. Campaigners have accused Muslim clerics of hypocrisy in seeking to block Saeed’s concert after photographs circulated on Facebook of senior officials watching a female singer performing at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.–Reuters