Television program shows world the new Afghanistan

Story highlights

  • "Afghan Star" is Afghanistan's answer to "American Idol"
  • But the TV show is more -- it gives Afghan refugees and the world a look at a changing society

Zarifmo Aslamshoyeva is a news editor on CNN's International Desk in Atlanta. A native of Tajikistan, she grew up near that nation's border with Afghanistan, in an area where culture and family ties are shared regardless of nationality.

(CNN)The beauty of Afghanistan -- a country blemished by wars, upheaval and the inhumane treatment of women by extremists -- has almost been forgotten by the world, and by many Afghans themselves.

In the last few decades, little attention has been paid to the other Afghanistan: the sweet melodies, the kind people, and the beautiful land full of ancient wisdom and intersecting traditions.
This is understandable. It would be irresponsible to solely focus on those positives while families are torn apart and the noise of war rings in people's ears. Generations of Afghans have had their homes surrounded by battles and their lives punctuated by fear.
    Afghanistan has been the largest refugee-producing country for 32 years. One out of every four refugees worldwide is Afghan, according to the United Nations.
    Recently, I was watching an engrossing reality TV show featuring singers when a friend peered over my shoulder and asked about the program. I explained that it was "Afghan Star," Afghanistan's answer to "American Idol." She was shocked by the set and the sophisticated arena stage where the stars were standing. That stage could easily have been in New York, Los Angeles, London or Rome.
    This, I realized, is the Afghanistan no one believes exists, or has ever existed. Afghanistan has a rich tradition of music, poetry, and songs that have influenced its neighbors and any region of the world exposed to the Silk Road. After al