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26.11.04

Theater in the Afghan Capital

If you, like me, need an occasional reminder of the vital importance of the arts to human life, read this article by Maseeh Rahman (Kabul Stage: Actresses play roles in several new plays, November 26) in the Christian Science Monitor:

Barely three years ago, at a time when women in Afghanistan were not permitted even to leave their homes, the idea of a woman performing on stage - and in mixed company! - seemed inconceivable. Any woman who did so risked life and limb. All the more astonishing, then, that a theater festival opening in Kabul will include a play written by a woman (a teenage schoolgirl, to be precise), with real actresses, about the brutal suppression of women under the country's now-ousted Taliban government.

"To those people who want to keep us away from the stage, I say: You have no right to interfere," says 16-year-old playwright/director Naseeba Ghulam Mohammed, whose "Toward Brightness" is among the plays women will perform during the eight-day national festival. "In Afghanistan today, men and women are equal."
Actually, as I remember reading some time ago (Kabul's theatre returns to life, January 8, 2002, BBC News), one of the first things that the new Afghan Minister of Culture did was to reinstate the National Theatre with new funding. Yes, you read that correctly: the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan has a Department of Culture, while we in the United States do not. Let's see, how could we fix that?

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