My Name is Zahra Nabi and I am the Program Manager of ‘59 Minutes Duel’.
It is a cookery program on Ariana TV where chefs compete to be the Golden Chef. It is the first program like this on Afghan TV. It’s broadcast throughout Afghanistan and also in Europe and the US.
My job is to mess around with the chefs and scream and make a lot of noise to make the program interesting. There were a few female candidates for the job, but everyone knows I am noisy in the office so they asked me.
The program is really cool and a lot of funny things happen. I find it so interesting that men can cook too because, at least in my family, no men cook. So it’s really nice to see that men are being more successful than women in cooking. I see them using their skills and originality. It’s common in Afghanistan for people to think that it’s bad for men to cook, but I think it’s good if men work in the home and cook as well.
My family and friends were not okay with my job to begin with, but they got used to it. When I first saw it I didn’t like it either. I thought I was too loud and messing around too much. In Afghanistan, women are usually quite formal. I messed around with the first cook on the program and he got really pissed off with me. He said ‘you really disturbed me’. But now everyone sees that I am the same with everyone, it’s my job, they don’t mind any more.
I was born in Afghanistan but because of the war my family left and I finished school in Pakistan. We tried to stay in Kabul as long as we could, but eventually we had to leave. Pakistan also became insecure so we went to Iran where I had a scholarship to university. I studied for my masters at Tehran University. We returned to Kabul three years ago. Apart from me and my father, my family did not want to come back to Afghanistan. They thought it would never be rebuilt and it would be dangerous. I really wanted to come back but I had no idea what it would be like, whether I could work here, whether the war was still going on. But it’s not like that. This is a war-torn country but people are normal and kind, they still have the kindness they had in the old days.
About the foreign forces, I don’t know that much. It’s currently a good situation – better than the Taliban. There are not really any other alternatives to foreign forces though; it’s the best option for the moment. I think over time, people will become more educated and there will be an alternative. As far as I know, Afghans cannot accept others ruling them but they are very hospitable. Maybe the foreigners won’t stay too long – I don’t think it will be good for them if they do, Afghanistan’s history proves it. These people have never accepted any foreign ruler; it’s in their blood. I think everybody here is like that.