Lauded at pageant, woman condemned by Afghan officials

Published November 10, 2003

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai,
condemned in her homeland for parading in a bikini at the Miss
Earth contest, won the pageant’s first “beauty for a
cause” award yesterday.

Kate Green
AP PHOTO
Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai, the first Afghan in three decades to take part in a beauty contest, dances wearing her traditional costume yesterday on the coronation night of the Miss Earth 2003 beauty pageant in suburban Manila.

The 23-year-old Samadzai, the first Afghan in three decades to
take part in a beauty contest, failed to make it to the
contest’s semifinals.

But judges announced that, for the first time, they were handing
out a “beauty for a cause” prize. They awarded it to
Samadzai for “symbolizing the newfound confidence, courage
and spirit of today’s women” and “representing
the victory of women’s rights and various social, personal
and religious struggles.”

Samadzai could face prosecution if she returns to her native
country because of her attire at the Manila pageant, a senior
Afghan justice official said Saturday.

Fazel Ahmad Manawi, deputy head of Afghanistan’s Supreme
Court, said Samadzai, a college student in California, had betrayed
Afghan culture by appearing at the Miss Earth contest in a bikini
— and may have also broken the law.

“I hope that this lady regrets her actions,” Manawi
said. He added that Afghan prosecutors may open an investigation,
but refused to say what charges or penalties Samadzai could
face.

Regardless of any legal action, Samadzai’s parading down a
catwalk in a red bikini during the contest’s qualification
last month was a radical departure from the traditional image of
Afghan women.

The Miss Earth crown went Sunday to Miss Honduras, Dania
Prince.