Young Afghan models risk all in catwalk beauty contest

Young Afghan models risk all in catwalk beauty contest
Winners of the Afghanistan Mr. and Miss Beauty competition Murtaza Safi and Nigara Sadaat pose for a souvenir photograph in Kabul. (AN photo)
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Updated 05 January 2021

Young Afghan models risk all in catwalk beauty contest

Young Afghan models risk all in catwalk beauty contest
  • 60 men, women aged 14-30 take part in Kabul local talent-scouting event

KABUL: In traditional Afghan dress, regional costumes, Western outfits, and some in more revealing attire, young men and women walked a red carpet to background music, taking applause from a tightly packed audience in a sprawling Kabul cafe.

Such scenes may well be familiar sights at fashion events around the world, but not in the Afghan capital. The show marked the first major beauty competition for men and women, Afghanistan’s Mr. and Miss Beauty 2020.

Sixty contestants aged between 14 and 30 participated in the recent competition to scout local talent.

Organizer, Hamid Wali, told Arab News: “It is a new concept, and has not happened before. It is the first time a fashion agency has done something that connects all the models, all the fashion.”

Wali set up the first professional Afghan modeling agency, Modelstan, in 2018 after returning from India where he worked for years in the fashion industry.

The 27-year-old’s aim is to promote local models to advertise local companies, which for years amid taboos and restrictions have relied on professionals from neighboring countries. The goal does not come without obstacles, prejudice, and accusations of foreign interference.

“We are a group of Afghan youths. Some think we are allied with a Western nation and get funding from a Western embassy. But we are not Western culture promoters, we are Afghans, we are Afghan culture promoters,” he said.

The main obstacle has been resistance from the models’ families, and Wali has tried hard to persuade them that there was nothing wrong in posing and being photographed for the media.

“We had a lot of arguments. There are a lot of families whom we had to convince,” he added.

Despite the agency’s efforts, however, the main burden rests on the models themselves with some of them willing to risk everything to follow their dream.

Nigara Sadaat, who was chosen by a jury of four women and men as Miss Beauty, said she had kept her participation in the contest secret.

“I secretly, without the knowledge and approval of my family, attended the competition. They still oppose what I have done,” she told Arab News after the show.

Sadaat has always wanted to be a model and during the show she wore modest embroidered tunics and scarves. Nevertheless, her relatives were outraged by the very act of modeling. 

“My relatives, in a humiliating manner, called my dad and informed him that ‘your daughter has become a model.’ I have not been able to go back home after the appearance of my images on media,” she said.

For now, she prefers to stay at her married sister’s house.

Mortaza Safi, who became Mr. Beauty, is in a similar predicament.

“There are some who oppose modeling in Afghanistan. My father showed the utmost opposition and refused to allow me,” said the 20-year-old, wearing a cowboy hat, thick khaki overcoat, and slim trousers.

“My dad forced me to shave my head, so that I would change my mind, and took me to a barber shop, thinking that if I lost my hair, I won’t be fit to attend the competition.”

Safi added that he had fled his hometown in northern Mazar-i-Sharif to pursue his passion for modelling and fashion. He ignored his family’s concerns and traveled through the night to Kabul for the first day of the event.

Modelling was a distant dream for the generations before them, especially during Taliban rule in the late 1990s, when women were banned from most outdoor activities, including work and education.

A possible return of the Taliban to power as a result of ongoing peace talks between the group and the Afghan government, which may lead to a new government manned by both sides, has left many fearful that their freedoms could again be curbed.

But the models vowed that whatever the future holds, they were determined to pursue their career paths.

“We all want restoration of peace here and we have no problem with the return of our Taliban brothers,” said Diana Adeeb, a young model who wore no headscarf.

She added that while the Taliban were part of Afghanistan too, they should respect the rights of others.

“We have witnessed too much trouble in modelling and faced too many risks with family and society. Our rights should not be trampled, and we should not be forced over how we should or should not be,” she said.


First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
The Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help. (ANJ Photo)
Updated 6 sec ago

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
  • An imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims
  • “This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community,” said Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid

TOKYO: Muslims held the first Friday prayers at a new mosque and community center established in the Nishi Kasai district in Edogawa, one of the 23 wards of Tokyo.

On the second floor, an imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims, while loudspeakers conveyed the audio to the first floor of the building in an area set up for females worshippers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community as well as our neighbors and local community and society at large,” the Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid told Arab News Japan. “We are offering our services, to serve Islam, to teach Islamic values and teachings in this society and community.”

Nishi Kasai is about 15 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

Abdul Wahid said the Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help.

Haroon Qureshi, Secretary-General of the Japan Islamic Trust, told Arab News Japan that the establishment is run by the Japan Islamic Trust, a religious organization running nine mosques in Japan.

“We are thankful for the cooperation of the local Muslims in Japan and many donors from more than 70 countries,” he said.

Abdullah Baba, president of Nishi Kasai Center, said they established their community seven years ago when there were 12-15 families, which increased to 80 families. The new center will provide important help for them.


Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
Updated 17 September 2021

Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
  • A statement published on Facebook Friday did not include girls of that age

ISTANBUL: The Taliban’s education ministry says all male students of grades 6 to 12 and male teachers should resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday.
The statement published on Facebook on Friday did not include girls of that age, and the lack of guidance highlighted ongoing concerns that the Taliban might impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking over power last month, the Taliban had allowed girls in grades one to six to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from attending school and work.
In some of the provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for women who have worked in health departments, hospitals and education.

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Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
Updated 17 September 2021

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
  • An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts

VIENNA: A civil trial opened Friday in Austria over the government’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths.
Sieglinde and Ullrich Schopf, the widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man who died of COVID-19 after becoming infected in Ischgl, are seeking about 100,000 euros ($117,000) compensation from the government. Their is seen as a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to the Paznaun valley in February and March 2020.
The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.
The outbreak in Ischgl, a popular resort in western Austria, is considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.
“Stopping people from leaving and arriving in the Paznaun valley or at least issuing a travel warning — the authorities failed to do that,” said Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing the Schopf family. “Thousands of people left the Paznaun valley unhindered, thousands of people arrived without a clue that they were in danger.”
An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in the valley after it became clear they were dealing with one of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreaks in March. But the panel didn’t find evidence that political or business pressure played a role in the decisions.
Klauser, the lawyer, said that even after authorities issued a directive to close apres-ski bars it wasn’t enforced strongly enough.
“Open air mass gatherings which were forbidden according to the directive continued,” he said. “The police just watched on without doing anything.”


Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis
Updated 17 September 2021

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on Friday condemned Houthi attacks earlier this month on Saudi Arabia.

“On September 4, a missile attack in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia was launched and repeated transporter attacks by Houthis against Saudi Arabia have been carried out. We strongly condemn such actions,” Motegi told Arab News Japan at a press conference.

Motegi stressed that the Japanese government was attempting to help in negotiations in order for a truce to be reached between the Houthis and various other parties.

“We very much support the activity by Ambassador Grandberg, Special Envoy for Yemen of the United Nations, and various other initiatives to end the disputes in Yemen and in the international community,” Motegi said.

The Japanese minister said during his recent visit to the Middle East, he more firmly supported a peaceful truce in Yemen.

Motegi said Japan will continue to collaborate with the relevant countries within and outside of the Middle East to achieve peace and security in Yemen.

“Ninety percent of the crude oil arriving in Japan comes from the Middle East and from such perspective peace and stability in the region is of crucial importance for Japan.”


Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station
Updated 17 September 2021

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station

Chinese astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station
  • The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule
  • State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert

BEIJING: A trio of Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after a 90-day stay aboard their nation’s first space station in China’s longest mission yet.
Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship just after 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) after having undocked from the space station Thursday morning.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert where it was met by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began opening the hatch of the capsule, which appeared undamaged.
The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule to allow them time to readjust to Earth’s gravity after three months of living in a weightless environment. The three were due to fly to Beijing on Friday.
“With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe there will even more astronauts who will set new records,” mission commander Nie told CCTV.
After launching on June 17, the three astronauts went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm, and had a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
While few details have been made public by China’s military, which runs the space program, astronaut trios are expected to be brought on 90-day missions to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.
The government has not announced the names of the next set of astronauts nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.
China has sent 14 astronauts into space since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.
China’s space program has advanced at a measured pace and has largely avoided many of the problems that marked the US and Russian programs that were locked in intense competition during the heady early days of spaceflight.
That has made it a source of enormous national pride, complementing the country’s rise to economic, technological, military and diplomatic prominence in recent years under the firm rule of the Communist Party and current leader Xi Jinping.
China embarked on its own space station program in the 1990s after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to US objections to the Chinese space program’s secrecy and military backing.
China has simultaneously pushed ahead with uncrewed missions, placing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and, in December, the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.
China this year also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, with its accompanying Zhurong rover venturing out to look for evidence of life.
Another program calls for collecting samples from an asteroid, an area in which Japan’s rival space program has made progress of late.
China also plans to dispatch another mission in 2024 to bring back lunar samples and is pursuing a possible crewed mission to the moon and eventually building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.