Female contestant wins Afghan singing competition amid Taliban talks


Women activists in Afghanistan were celebrating on Friday after an 18-year-old singer became the first woman to win Afghanistan's widely popular talent competition.

Late on Thursday night, Zahra Elham More was shocked after emerging victorious on Afghan Star, the most popular show on Afghan television, running for 14 years and watched by millions.

Women's rights activists in Kabul see the victory, which comes amid U.S. and Taliban talks, as a sign of protest against a potential re-emerging of Taliban governance. The show has also been the most controversial and time and again leads to harsh criticism by conservatives.

"The victory shows that we have a serious problem with the way the Taliban thinks about women," Kabul-based activist Roshan Ghaznawi said.

"Zahra Elham's winning showed that an Afghans cannot accept Taliban's ideology and women will not retreat from their fundamental rights," social activist Frozan Darwish said.

Zahra Elham, a 10th-grade school student in Pakistan, flew to Afghanistan to join the competition but says she wasn't expecting to reach the final. Annually, thousands of Afghans are being attracted to the Afghan Star show in hope of showing their talents and gaining nation-wide fame.

Zahra's competitor in the final show was a young man from the northern province Badakhshan, Wasim Anwari, who mainly sings "Ghazal" - a traditional music style. Ordinary citizens expressed mixed reactions about Zahra's victory.  

A Kabul resident, Wahid Sahar, says, "in a time when radical religious figures speak against music and new year celebrations, I am happy that a lady has won."

Afghans all over the country on Thursday celebrated the new year. However, there were also critics who trolled her appearance and voice, saying that she sang from her nose.

The show finales comes after U.S. and Taliban have met six times since the summer in an effort to find a political solution to end the longest war in U.S. history.    (dpa)

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