After NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, announced on April 14 2021 that the alliance had decided to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, Taliban forces almost immediately launched an aggressive offensive against the Afghani government, quickly capturing the capital city of Kabul on August 14 that same year.
In an instant, life changed in the country, and musicians (and other artists) were among those in fear of attacks on their artistic expression and loosing their livelihood as working musicians.
Now, roughly two years into the second Taliban era, many musicians find those concerns to be true.
Faisal (whose full name we don’t use for safety reasons) is one of these artists. He has always believed that music could be a tool towards peace, harmony and love, but under the current circumstances he is forbidden from practicing his art.
When Faisal was a young boy, he heard something that moved him deeply. He described to me how he walked into a room, seeing a lady play an old Afghan song on the piano. He found the music and the whole encounter to be something very beautiful and comforting.
Finally the day came where he started learning to play the piano under the guidance of Mr. Haroon Halimi. Later he started playing professionally in collectives and bands such as Chakawak, Dawood Niga, West Youths and others.
At a young age, Faisal was quickly establishing himself as a sought after pianist, for live concerts and studio recordings alike, and with his music playing he used to be able to support himself and his family. That is, before the fall of Afghanistan.
Faisal tells me that he believes all artists should have the freedom to practice their passion and make a living for their families. He hopes that by sharing his story he can help create a change in his country that, before the long conflict, was a colorful place filled with an immense amount of beautiful history and culture.
“I wish for a brighter future, where music can heal wounds, inspire unity and allow artists to freely serve their communities.– Faisal, Afghan musician
For the time being Afghan artists must wait, in hope for things to change, and pray they don’t get hurt in the process. In solidarity, we can all pressure our own governments around the world to help relocate artists that are in particular risk for their lives.
If you are an artist at risk, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, there are several organisations which can possibly help in a variety of ways. Some are listed below.
- France’s PAUSE: this program requires finding a host university or institution in France.
- Martin Roth Initiative is a fellowship accepting applications up until September 2023.
- Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization: SRMO is offering psychosocial support and safety training for Afghan HRDs in the country and launching a website where individuals can access secure resources in real-time. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Madre provides the following resources to Afghan Human Rights Defenders: Human rights violation documentation training, Relocation Guide, Resources Manual. Email email@example.com.
- To get in touch with the Afghanistan Human Rights Coordination Mechanism contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- To get in touch with Freedom House’s Program for Afghan Defenders, contact email@example.com