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Afghan women-run radio resumes broadcasts after Taliban shutdown – but with conditions

Sadai Banowan has agreed to stop playing any kind of music from its radio service after negotiations with Taliban

Arpan Rai
Friday 07 April 2023 14:19 BST
Afghan women-run radio Sadai Banowan was shut by the Taliban over allegations of playing music during the holy month of Ramadan
Afghan women-run radio Sadai Banowan was shut by the Taliban over allegations of playing music during the holy month of Ramadan (Supplied)

Afghanistan’s only women-run radio station has resumed broadcasts after it was shut down by the Taliban for allegedly playing music during the holy month of Ramadan.

Sadai Banowan, translating to “women’s voice” in the Dari language, was allowed to resume its activities in Badakhshan province on Thursday with the strict condition that it does not play any kind of music.

Moezuddin Ahmadi, the Taliban’s regional director for information and culture in Badakhshan, said Sadai Banowan had promised to obey the “laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate” going forwards.

The station, led by Najia Sorosh, “gave a commitment to officials at the information and culture department, [after which] they unlocked the door of the station”.

Banowan resumed broadcasting services shortly after.

The move has been welcomed by the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, the country’s watchdog organisation that promotes the safety of journalists and press freedom.

It was also involved as a mediator in negotiations between the Taliban and Sadai Banowan.

“Following AJSC’s advocacy efforts, Sadia Banowan radio resumed its broadcasts,” it said in a tweet.

At least four officials from the Taliban administration’s Ministry of Information and Culture and the vice and virtue directorate had shut down the station a week earlier.

Speaking to The Independent earlier this week, a key staff member of the radio station, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, said her crew was tired of seeking the Taliban’s permission to speak about the basic rights of women in Afghanistan.

She said she was ready to “fight” to save the radio station’s existence, even if it meant being punished. The negotiations were likely held on Wednesday.

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The radio station operator had said that her team were pinning their last remaining hope on the conversation with the Taliban.

“I have now decided to speak with the Taliban’s cultural chief and apologise, if needed. If he does not agree, I will break up the equipment and all my materials and shut down operations for ever,” the staff member had said. “But right now, I am not scared, and I will fight for my radio station’s existence. Even if the Taliban wants to jail or kill me in their prison custody.”

Sadai Banowan was opened 10 years ago when Afghanistan was run by a Western-backed government. The culture ministry at that time allowed the then 18-member team to play music, broadcast jokes, and invite male guests to speak on radio shows.

However, after the Taliban retook power in August 2021, many journalists lost their jobs and faced abject poverty in the country. The Taliban’s rule forced several media outlets to close over a lack of funds or because staff left the country.

In a stark reminder of their previous rule from the 1990s, the Taliban has barred women from most forms of employment and education beyond the sixth grade, including university.

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