Afghan female rock fest triumphs, but anxiety over future looms

Wed May 1, 2013 12:27am EDT
 
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

KABUL (Reuters) - More than 400 Afghan women and girls jumped from their seats, screaming and even headbanging to rock and rap music at an all-female music festival in the capital of Kabul, which organizers say was the largest such event in the country's history.

It may also be one of the last. In ultra-conservative Afghanistan, women's rights remain precarious.

Afghan women have won back hard-fought rights such as education and work since the Islamist Taliban was toppled 12 years ago, but there are fears these freedoms could shrink once NATO-led forces withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, ending their fight against a Taliban-led insurgency that began in late 2001.

"I'm worried that when the troops leave, we'll be stuck in our homes like we were in the past," said 16-year-old student Shabona Nabizada, shouting above the din of electric guitar.

"As women we're ridiculed and harassed. I feel free being able to come here and leave all that behind," she added with a timid smile.

The rare women's day, part of a multi-day Sound Central concert, was held in a city concert hall on Tuesday and drew a boisterous crowd - mostly teenagers in the high school uniform of grey tunic and white hijab, but also abuse victims from shelters and even a few grandmothers.

Increasing insecurity is deterring some women from pursuing work outside the home, and rights workers accuse the government of not doing enough to safeguard women - claims that President Hamid Karzai's administration denies.

The women-only festival kicked off the 4-day Sound Central rock fest, now in its third year, featuring acts by Afghan-American singer Ariana Delawari and Kabul-based expat rockers White City, whose British lead singer Ruth Owen sent the crowd into a frenzy.   Continued...