The Taliban had banned music and 99% of everything else that is fun. Now, an Afghan version of the "American Idol" called "Afghan Star" has been broadcasted for seven seasons. Millions are watching and voting for their favorite singers by mobile phone. For many this is their first encounter with democracy. A documentary from 2009 follows "the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk all to become the nation's favorite singer."
Watch the latest show from this week:
I am not a fan of these casting shows, which are so popular in the US, Britain, Germany, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They do, however, show our common humanity. It's good to see how much we have in common, which is easy to forget when newspapers and TV news show us so many atrocities.
It's great to see the joy this show brings to Afghans, who have lived their entire lives in civil war or under oppression from the Taliban and other warlords.
These shows strengthen Afghans' common national identity and might even strengthen democratic values.
Finally some good news from Afghanistan for a change.
So much is still going wrong in Afghanistan, that even many supporters of the ISAF mission are having second thoughts and reconsider their previous expressions of support, as did Dorian De Wind on The Moderate Voice:
Take the barbaric - there's that word again - acts perpetrated against a poor, defenseless 15-year-old girl by her own flesh-and-blood because she refused to go into prostitution.
There have been so many other instances - too many - of similar atrocities and human rights violations, that one sometimes must wonder: Is this what we are spilling our blood for and wasting our treasure for "over there"?
My reaction was: The police arrested the in-laws. They won't (be able to) do that once we leave. All the bad news we hear from Afghanistan will be worse, if we leave before more progress has been achieved and the transition is sustainable. That's also something we need to consider.
Afghanistan's needs a better government than Karzai's, but the regional and local governments are at least as important as the Kabul government and many require aid and expertise in governance, human rights training, corruption fighting etc. Moreover, we should listen to Afghan civil society.
It is, however, also important to remind ourselves of some of the limited successes we had in Afghanistan: 12 Ways NATO Helped Build a Better Afghanistan
Endnote: Here is music video, which is a bit cheasy, but the beauty of Afghanistan, which we do not see everyday on the news: