Last updated by AQ – 5/3/2005
Vida Samadzai caused controversy after unofficially representing Afghanistan and posing in a revealing red bikini during the Miss Earth beauty pageant in 2003. She was immediately condemned by many Afghan officials, including by many women in the Afghan government. Many stated that instead of helping to promote the liberation of women in Afghanistan, she was actually doing it more harm. During this time, the Taliban were spreading propaganda that giving women the right to work and the right to an education will lead to the destruction of Afghan and Islamic values in Afghanistan. “Appearing naked before a camera or television is not women’s freedom but in my opinion is to entertain men,” then Minister of Women’s Affairs (Habiba Sorabi) was quoted as saying. Sorabi further added that “…women should not demonstrate their worth using their ‘beauty or bodies’ but by their skills and knowledge”. Sorabi became the Afghanistan’s first female provincial governor in March 2005. Samadzai did not win the Miss Earth beauty pageant, however, the coordinators of the event presented her with a special “beauty for a cause” award. As a result of the controversy, Samadzai released the following statement: “If I offended some people, some women in Afghanistan, I apologize. I represent myself. Afghan women should be allowed to do anything they want. Their rights shouldn’t be suppressed. They should speak their mind, to be whatever they want to be.” Vida Samadzai was born in 1980 and currently lives in the United States.