KABUL (AFP) — Afghanistan has banned the film "The Kite Runner" because of violent scenes, including one involving the sexual assault of a young boy, that could inflame ethnic tensions, the culture ministry said Wednesday.
The scenes were "ethnically orientated" and this made the movie unacceptable in this country, where it is mainly set, deputy culture minister Najib Malalai told AFP.
Ethnicity is a flashpoint in this fractured country after a deadly ethnic-based civil war and Taliban rule of the 1990s.
The ministry last year banned an Indian-made film, "Kabul Express", after it was deemed to insult the Hazara minority. The movie, nonetheless available on the black market, prompted demonstrations.
"The Kite Runner" includes a scene in which a young Hazara is raped by a boy from the dominant Pashtun group.
"It is trouble to public order and this is why it is forbidden," Malalai said.
"When one member of an ethnic group is attacked by people from a different one, it makes it seem that ethnicity was the cause for this type of act," Malalai said. "It cannot be accepted."
The four child stars of the film, based on the best-selling 2003 book by US-based Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini, left Afghanistan last month to settle in the United States after concern about reprisals because of the scene.
The film is set against the backdrop of Afghanistan's tumultuous recent past, from the fall of the monarchy in 1973 to the Soviet invasion and rise of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, which carried out massacres on Hazara.
"Generally, films which involve Afghanistan and are not in total contradiction with our religion or our culture are allowed," the minister said.
But "there are scenes in this film which show acts of sexual violence that are ethnically orientated," he said of the production by Hollywood's Paramount Vantage studio.
The head of Afghan Film, the country's film distribution agency, agreed that such a movie could not be screened in the deeply conservative Islamic nation.
"The population of our country could not accept those type of scenes," Latif Ahmadi said.
There are about a dozen cinemas in the impoverished and war-scarred Afghanistan, about seven of them in the capital. There are also numerous DVD outlets, many selling pirated copies of films.
Bootleg copies of "The Kite Runner", released last month and tipped for success at the Oscars, don't appear to have yet made it to the Afghan market.
Sensitive issues, usually involving religion or culture, have touched off several demonstrations here in the past, some turning violent, such as days of protests in 2006 about European cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.
There were also protests last year over the US military's distribution of footballs that showed the Saudi Arabian flag, which includes verses from the Koran.
Mullahs, who are influential in largely illiterate Afghanistan, called on President Hamid Karzai last month to ban certain music programmes on television that they said were "immoral" and "against Islam."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »