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Afghan models cast off burqas

WEARY of Afghanistan's image as a country in chronic conflict with a history of repressing women, Arash Shenasa, a university medical student, 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 program, the first of its kind in Afghanistan, Shenasa said.

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 Taliban, many women 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.

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.


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