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Radio Station Gives Voice to Remote Afghan Region

By Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller
Special to American Forces Press Service

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is giving voice to residents of this remote area through a radio station run by one of their own.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Shaib Dad Hamdard works as a radio disc jockey in his native Nuristan province, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2009. The station, funded by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, offers the people of the remote mountain area a variety of news and entertainment programs. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

When Shaib Dad Hamdard was growing up here near the Pakistan border, he dreamed of being a voice to his people. Now, with the turn of a dial and the flick of the switch, he’s on air at Kalagush Radio, reaching out across the remote mountain province.

And he doesn’t shy away from controversy. Today’s topic: the need for women’s equality.

“With this,” the 24-year-old station manager said, motioning to the microphone, “I can educate my people. I can provide a voice to them.”

Broadcasting into areas so isolated -- many residents may only travel as far as the neighboring village in their lifetimes -- Kalagush Radio is “a live existence of the [outside] world,” Hamdard said.

For 12 hours a day, the Nuristani radio station offers news and entertainment programs that cater to the local people.

Although the news stories are not always positive, they are honest. They offer a balanced look at issues affecting residents under the station’s “don’t take any sides” philosophy.

But news is only part of the station’s programming. DJs offer a variety of music, history, education, religious and social commentary shows, as well. One of Kalagush Radio’s most popular shows is a daily music program that allows listeners to phone in with requests, Hamdard said. The show has received a huge response, he said.

“We think of the needs of the local people, and what they want,” said Hamdard, remarking on the station’s success.

Although ISAF funds the station, Kalagush Radio employees insist they decide what is put on the air.

“Of course it is funded by the coalition forces, but I have total control over the programs,” Hamdard said. “The programs are not limited to any specific groups.”

ISAF forces are working with Kalagush Radio to expand its broadcast schedule to 24 hours a day. They’re also planning to hire several new journalists for the station, including an Afghan woman, offering a voice for what the station’s crew calls a silent majority.

(Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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