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58 CULTURE •• Media

© Lonely Planet Publications

KITE FIGHTING

Of the Taliban’s many prohibitions, the ban on kite flying seemed one of the most needlessly cruel. Any visitor to Afghanistan will soon become accustomed to seeing kites flapping above the streets. Kite flying is a favourite obsession of Afghan boys, one recently revealed to the outside world through Khaled Hosseini’s haunting novel The Kite Runner. The smallest kites are tiny affairs homemade from plastic or paper scraps and a wire frame.

There’s no tail to increase manoeuvrability, and fliers can get their kites aloft in the barest waft of air, with patient tugs of the line. Being Afghanistan of course, there’s a martial element to the pursuit and kites are fought against each other for supremacy of the skies. In kite fighting (gudiparan bazi) the kites’ strings are covered with a mix of paste and ground glass. As the kites fly together, the flier attempts to position his kite to rub against the string of his opponent, to cut the kite loose. As the vanquished kite flutters to earth, a mad race breaks out to claim the prize. Trees and power lines take their share of the winnings too. Winter, with its strong winds, is the most popular time for kite fighting, while Kabul hosts a kite-fighting festival around Nauroz (see p95 ).

Afghan Wire (www.afghan wire.com) provides a daily translation into English of top stories in the Afghan press.

chat with popular Afghan and Hindi pop music. For all this, the most listened-to broadcaster in Afghanistan consistently remains the BBC. Its long-running Dari and Pashto soap opera New Home, New Life has been used to tackle issues from health education and land mine safety, to domestic violence and explaining the new constitution. The programme is so popular that some warring factions would call local ceasefires so as to not to miss an episode. Newspapers have mushroomed in recent years, and there are thought

to be over 300 papers and magazines in circulation. Daily newspapers published in both Dari and Pashto include Anis, Erada and the popular weekly Kilid. Many newspapers are open in the support for one political faction or another, and truly independent journalism is still taking baby steps and is under pressure from many sides. TV is popular wherever a generator can be found to power a satellite dish. The private station Tolo TV has been a big hit, with shows like The 6.30 Report carrying critical reportage, while Hop steals from MTV with a mix of chat and music videos. Religious and political conservatives aren’t fans, however – criticism of women presenters led to the murder of Shaima Rezayee in 2005, and other reporters are regularly harassed.

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