Afghan singer's star is rising, as are the threats

Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:24am EST
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By Miriam Arghandiwal

KABUL (Reuters) - With a scarf loosely covering a fancy television hairstyle, Latifa Azizi raised her arms in victory after surviving another elimination round on the hit talent show, "Afghan Star".

But the victory pales into insignificance when compared with the larger battle 17-year-old Azizi is fighting - to pursue her dream of becoming a famous singer despite the censure of ultra-conservative Afghan society.

"Whether I win or lose, my family can't go back home, it's too dangerous," Azizi, from the relatively liberal northern capital of Mazar-e-Sharif, told Reuters in the show's dressing room.

Azizi and her family fled Mazar for the Afghan capital, Kabul, soon after she appeared on the show in November. Her community was angry with her appearance, saying it was un-Islamic for a woman to sing and appear on television. The family began to receive death threats.

"Latifa will have no life here after what she's done. We don't do such things and we don't accept people who do," said Sayed Mohammad Kasem, a member of Azizi's tribe in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The threats began after the airing of her audition for "Afghan Star". With an audience of 11 million, the six-year-old show has become an important vehicle for young Afghans aspiring to become famous singers.

"I went to school the day after my audition aired to take my final exams and my classmates started to shout horrible things and pulled at my hair," Azizi said in a soft low voice.

"I ran away crying," she said. "Not even my teachers tried to help me."   Continued...

Afghan's Latifa Azizi performs on the "Afghan star" talent show in Kabul January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani