Security fears ahead of Ariana Saeed ‘gig’ – ‘Afghanistan’s Kardashian’

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LONDON, Aug 17, (RTRS): One of Afghanistan’s most controversial pop stars, Ariana Saeed, famous for her figure-hugging outfits, has vowed to go ahead with a fundraising concert in the capital Kabul on Saturday amid threats from conservatives who oppose women singing in public.

The show’s location is being kept secret following deadly militant attacks in Kabul, such as during a 2014 play in the French cultural centre, and criticism of the event on Facebook.

“I will do it regardless of any consequences”, Saeed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Kabul.

“We have already sold more than 4,000 tickets, which shows how people love music, dancing and happiness”.

The date is significant for women as is the anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence in 1919 under King Amanullah Khan, a modernist who campaigned against the veil and polygamy.

Women performing in public is regarded as inappropriate in the conservative Muslim nation.

“We will not allow such dances and acts of disbelief in our society”, Ataullah Faizani, a member of Kabul’s provincial council said in a phone interview.

Saeed’s fans are determined to attend, despite the risks.

“Stopping Ariana Saeed’s concert is an attack on all women’s identity and freedom”, Bahar Sohaili said on her Facebook page.

“We won’t let this happen to us. I will go to this concert”.

Saeed will donate money from the show to families displaced by last week’s militant attack on Mirza Olang village in northern Afghanistan, which killed at least 62 people with the number expected to rise.

The Taleban and Islamic State both claimed responsibility for the attack, in which victims were buried in mass graves.

“This country has deep-rooted problems to be solved”, said Saeed, who many Afghans compare to reality television star Kim Kardashian for her long, straight black hair and glamorous dress sense.

“My voice represents peace for my people and a ray of hope for the girls of this country”.

Saeed has received numerous death threats from religious figures and conservatives who say her western outfits and public appearances flout Afghan culture.

In addition to singing, she judges the Afghan version of The Voice talent show.

Saeed publicly burned a skin-coloured dress in May which she wore at a concert in Paris after critics said she looked like she was naked.

Islamic scholars in Bamiyan Province tried to stop a music festival in June but failed following a public outcry.

Campaigners have accused Muslim clerics of hypocrisy in seeking to block Saeed’s concert after photographs circulated on Facebook of senior officials watching a female singer performing at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.

Noel Gallagher is set to headline the Manchester Arena reopening concert, We Are Manchester, on Sept 9. The venue has been closed since the May bombing attacks that killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others.

Gallagher’s presence is especially poignant since his song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” came to symbolize unity after the tragedy when a crowd started spontaneously singing it at a memorial. The former Oasis star’s brother, Liam, performed at the One Love Manchester benefit concert just after the bombings, but Noel did not make an appearance.

Other artists that will perform at the show include indie bands The Courteneers and Blossoms, 1980s pop star Rick Astley, and poet Tony Walsh. The Courteneers covered “Don’t Look Back In Anger” in front of a crowd of 50,000 people five days after the bombing, and Walsh performed the poem “This Is the Place” at a vigil the day after the attack.

All profits from the show will go toward creating a permanent memorial to the victims, to be built by the new Manchester Memorial Fund. Tickets cost between $32 and $38 (£25-£30), and go on sale Thursday.

More acts will continue to be announced for We Are Manchester, for which security has been increased. Attendees will be required to undergo additional ID checks, and fans have been asked not to bring bags larger than 35cm x 40cm x 19cm.

The arena’s foyer, where the bomb detonated, has been undergoing renovation since the attacks. Manchester Arena’s manager James Allen said, “May’s events will never be forgotten, but they will not stop us — or Mancunian music fans — from coming together to enjoy live music.

Manchester Arena has celebrated over 20 years hosting some of the greatest musical talent of all time, and the significant economic and cultural impact that this has on the city means that this legacy must continue. Public safety is always our priority and we are doing all we can to keep people safe at our venue”.

Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, added, “No one will ever forget the terrible events of May 22, but Manchester has reacted with love, solidarity, and a determination to continue doing the things which make this such a vibrant city. We welcome the reopening of the arena, a major venue which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, as a powerful symbol of this defiant and resilient spirit”.

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