Why Was 'Afghan Star' Winner Nearly Killed?

PHOTO: 23-year old Naweed Forugh, a former winner of Afghanistans version of American Idol, plays the harmonia, a traditional Afghan musical instrument, in his living room. After nearly losing his life to an unknown gunman, Forugh is too afraid to leave

Three weeks ago, Navid Forogh was on top of the world.

The winner of "Afghan Star," the war-torn country's version of "American Idol," had just released a slate of new singles, had big ticket performances lined up across the region, and millions of young, adoring fans willing to line up for hours to score tickets to see him in person.

In short, the 23-year-old Afghan had defied the odds.

With a golden voice and boyish good looks to match, he'd become a pop culture celebrity in a country where pop culture barely exists.

His impressive "Afghan Star" win, broadcast to millions of Afghan homes on the country's privately owned TOLO-TV, was about more than just a simple contest.

It was about hope, showing ordinary Afghans that despite nearly 30 years of war, Afghanistan was still a place where dreams could come true.

"I couldn't go outside without people stopping me," Forogh recounts from his living room. "I was an ordinary person, then suddenly I became a star."

And a star, he was. Fans wanted his autograph.

Girls rushed on stage looking for a kiss.

And posters of Forogh started popping up in music shops across the country.

The new-found fame meant Forogh could finally afford new clothes, for himself and his family and even a new car. He was invited to perform in Dubai, Russia, Tajikistan, and elsewhere.

And each time while on stage, the twinkle in his eye let everyone know: this was just the beginning.

Then came the bullets. And everything changed.

Three of them, in quick succession put an end to Forogh's career, and leaving him so depressed he now sits alone in an empty house, wondering if she should kill himself.

This is not the Afghanistan he dreamed of.

Forogh had been receiving anonymous threats online since shorly after he won the reality show.

He believes they were linked to a song he wrote about Ahmad Shah Massoud, a famous warlord who fought the Taliban for years before he was killed by a suicide bomber in September 2001.

For the Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun from southern Afghanistan, Massoud was public enemy no. 1.

"I didn't take the threats seriously," Forogh said. "I thought it was something normal. It's a free media, anyone can say whatever they want."

But one fateful night in April, on his way home from a performance in Kabul, he was ambushed by a masked gunman. Hiding behind a tree outside Forogh's driveway, the gunman fired the three shots that changed Forogh's life forever and put an end to his once promising career.

The first bullet ricocheted off the hood of his car.

The second whizzed past his ear.

And the third pierced his shoulder, sending Forogh sprawling to the ground, in a pool of his own blood. When his brother found him 15 minutes later, he thought he was dead. Had any of the bullets been mere inches closer to their target, Forogh would have been.

"He fired the bullet to hit me in the head," Forogh said. "But thanks to God, He protected me."

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