You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mideast nets protest as death threat can ‘Kabul’

Threats against the show were posted on Web site

LONDON — Saudi satcasters the Middle East Broadcasting Corp. (MBC) and Orbit TV are suing Qatar TV over the suspension of its controversial drama serial “The Road to Kabul” after threats from Islamist extremists.

The series, due to run for 30 episodes over the holy month of Ramadan, charts the story of an Afghan woman who falls in love with a Palestinian man while studying in London. The drama follows the pair to Afghanistan in the 1980s just as the Taliban have acceded to power and follows their relationship, and the country’s fortunes, up to 2001.

Threats against the show were posted on a Web site Oct. 15, the first day of Ramadan, by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigades of Iraq and Syria.

It warned: “We will strike, God willing, satellite channels showing this soap opera and their correspondents as well as their offices in Iraq and Syria. This is a warning for all those who contributed to making this soap opera, including actors, producers and cameramen if it contains insults to the Taliban.”

Qatar TV, which owns the rights to the soap after backing the Arab Audio-Visual Center production to the tune of $2 million, promptly pulled the skein.

Initially it blamed “technical reasons,” rather than the death threats, as its failure to supply the episodes. That charge was refuted by Arab Audio-Visual Center director Talal Al-Awamila, who said the final episodes had been shot and sent to Qatar TV.

The decision angered MBC, which had already aired the first eight episodes. It canceled the run after Qatar TV refused to send the remaining 22 episodes “without giving us a convincing reason.”

In a statement, MBC continued, “Qatar TV and the Arab Audio-Visual Center breached their commitment to deliver all the episodes before the date set for broadcasting before Ramadan.”

MBC is owned by Walid and Abdelaziz al-Ibrahim, brothers-in-law of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd. Orbit is run by the king’s nephew, Fahd ben Abdullah ben Abdel Aziz.

State broadcaster Jordan Radio and Television Corp. canned the show at the request of Qatar TV, which is owned by the Emir of Qatar, who also founded Arab news channel Al-Jazeera.

TV stations in Morocco also decided not to run the soap.

This is MBC’s second setback this year: Its costly version of “Big Brother” was canceled in March. Bahrain, where the show was being lensed, banned its transmission by parliamentary decree due to vociferous public protests over what was termed un-Islamic content.

Ramadan is traditionally a big time for Arab TV nets, which often program monthlong serials.

Some opposition members of parliament in Egypt, the biggest producer of Arab TV serials in the Middle East along with Lebanon, last week urged the minister of information, Dr. Mahmoud Al Bitaji, to ban entertainment programs during Ramadan and air prayers live from mosques around the region.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content