KABUL, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Weary of Afghanistan's image as a
country in chronic conflict with a history of repressing women,
Arash Shenasa plans to launch a modeling contest to show "the
hidden beauties" of his central Asian nation.
Since announcing the plan a week ago, some 2,000 men and
women have enrolled to take part in the "Afghan Model"
competition run by Emrooz TV, a private channel.
Top companies operating in Afghanistan have offered to
sponsor the programme, the first of its kind in Afghanistan,
These kinds of contests have become popular in many nations
around the world. But it is an extraordinary development in
Afghanistan, where more than seven years after the fall of the
hardline Taliban, many women in the deeply conservative nation
still wear the all-enveloping burqas.
"My main aim is to show the hidden beauties of Afghan
youth, and through Emrooz TV, I am trying to show just that,"
says the 24-year-old, clean-shaven Shenasa.
The aspiring models will be selected through a series of
contests by Afghan judges who themselves have no experience in
modeling, said Shenasa, a university medical student who has
worked in the media for the past several years.
The panel of judges includes a self-proclaimed body fitness
champion, a fashion designer and a cinema artist.
The contestants will decide for themselves what they will
wear, with clothing styles ranging from European, Asian,
American or Afghan designs. Emrooz will choose the fashion
ensembles in the final round of six contestants.
The final six will have a chance to appear in TV
advertisements, which have mushroomed in Afghanistan since the
fall of the Taliban, who had banned TV among their many other
Twelve private stations and one state channel now broadcast
in the capital, their content, however, monitored by government
Contestants will be judged on looks, fitness and behaviour,
"The programme of modeling makes youth pay attention to
their bodies, for if you do not have a good body you cannot
compete, and you can only have a good body if you exercise,"
said the fitness judge, Khawja Farid Ahmad Seddiqi.
"It is the best way of eradicating narcotics," he added.
Emrooz, owned by parliament member Najib Kabuli, shows
mostly music and movies and has drawn harsh criticism for
airing what is considered racy programming in Afghanistan.
"We accept the criticism," Kabuli said. "The other day some
one in a shop told me that he was ashamed to watch songs aired
on our TV at home before his family."
Currently Emrooz covers only 10 of the 34 provinces of
Afghanistan but expects to launch a satellite service when
"Afghan Model" is ready for broadcast.
(Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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