Taliban shuts women-run radio station for ‘playing music during Ramadan’

Sadai Banowan’s head Najia Sorosh decries conspiracy by Taliban to shut down radio station

Arpan Rai
Monday 03 April 2023 13:18 BST
Afghan women with children walk at a graveyard at a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghan women with children walk at a graveyard at a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan (AFP via Getty Images)

The Taliban has ordered the shutting down of a women-run radio station in Afghanistan after accusing it of playing music during the holy month of Ramadan.

The radio station, called Sadai Banowan or “women’s voice” in the Dari language, is the country’s only radio station run mainly by women.

Moezuddin Ahmadi, Taliban’s director for information and culture in Badakhshan province, said Sadai Banowan’s move to play music violated the “laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate” multiple times as the radio station had broadcast songs.

The official said the breach of the rules set by the caretaker government led to the radio station’s shuttering.

“If this radio station accepts the policy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and gives a guarantee that it will not repeat such a thing again, we will allow it to operate again,” he said.

The radio station was shuttered on 30 March. The holy month of Ramadan had started this year on 23 March.

Najia Sorosh, the radio station’s head, has accused the Taliban of conspiracy. She said the militant group shut down the operations of the radio station that is run by a team of eight people of which six were women.

Saying there was no need to shut operations, Ms Sorosh said the Taliban “told us that you have broadcast music” and added that the radio station had “not broadcast any kind of music”.

The Taliban has not officially announced a ban on music in Afghanistan.

On 30 March, Ms Sorosh said representatives from the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture and the vice and virtue directorate reached the radio station at 11.40am in northeastern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and shut it down.

The station staff then reached out to the ministry’s officials, but were told that it did not have any additional information about the closing.

The move has sparked outrage in Afghanistan as many locals monitoring the Taliban’s hardline Islamist regime have said it is in line with the group’s interpretation of Sharia law.

“Historically, the Taliban has been known for their strict interpretation of Islamic law, which includes strict restrictions on women’s rights and freedoms,” said Maryam Marof Arwin, founder at the Afghanistan women’s and children strengthen welfare organisation.

“They have been known to close down women’s schools, ban women from working outside the home, and restrict women’s access to healthcare,” she said.

“It is possible that they closed the Banowan radio station as part of their efforts to enforce their strict interpretation of Islamic law and limit women’s voices and visibility in public life.”

Several journalists have been rendered unemployed after the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

The Afghan Independent Journalists Associated has said the country’s media outlets shut shop either due to lack of funds or because staff left the country.

All women in the country have been barred from most forms of employment and education beyond the sixth grade, including university, in addition to a ban on entering public parks.

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