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Brandeis University | International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Peacebuilding and the Arts: Exploring the contributions of arts and culture to peace
Special Issue on Afghanistan
Along with people the world over, we remain heartsick and in distress about the crisis in Afghanistan. In this special issue of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now we share links to information and avenues for action, especially as related to the frightening situation on the ground for artists and human rights defenders. 

We begin with an essay by ethnomusicologist Michael Lindsey, who studied at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. At the end of his thoughtful and heartbreaking piece about musicians in Kabul, you’ll find references and links to programs that are supporting artists there in a variety of ways. Next, we offer stories from and about Afghan artists. And we close with links to additional information regarding possibilities for action in support of those caught in this emergency.

-- Armine Avetisyan and Toni Shapiro-Phim
   Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

My Musician Colleagues in Afghanistan
By Dr. Michael Lindsey, University of California, Santa Cruz
two boys smiling while one plays drums
My teacher's nephews practice tabla (drums) at their house
in the Kharabat (musician's neighborhood).
Photo taken by author, Kabul 2018
In 2018 I spent six months studying music in Kabul, Afghanistan, with a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. The trip was part of my dissertation research, which focused on regional and devotional drumming traditions in South Asia. While in Kabul I engaged directly with the music community, taking private music lessons, interviewing musicians, attending private house concerts, and conducting archival research at Kabul University. Additionally, I volunteered at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) as the percussion instructor. I also had the opportunity to travel to Herat in western Afghanistan with my partner during her visit after the holy month of Ramadan. The hospitality and generosity that was given to me by the Afghan people is something that I will never forget. My time in Afghanistan was one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences I have had, and the recent events leading to the Taliban's return to power have been heart-breaking, to say the least.

Read the full article.

Stories from and about Afghan artists
woman playing violin and looking at sheet music
Students at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music are frightened now that the Taliban, which banned most forms of music when it previously ruled the country, is consolidating control again. A student in its all-female orchestra, Zohra, practiced in 2019. Credit: Jawad Jalali/EPA, via Shutterstock. Source: New York Times
A Celebrated Afghan School Fears the Taliban Will Stop the Music
New York Times
“The Afghanistan National Institute of Music became a symbol of the country’s changing identity.”

Will the Taliban Stop the Music in Afghanistan?
Wall Street Journal
“After the group was ousted, music and music education thrived in the country; now that they’re back, will they still?”
Heartbreaking Art From Afghanistan’s First Female Street Artist Shamsia Hassani
My Modern Met
Shamsia Hassani “is turning her emotions into art and has published a series of heartbreaking images on her social media.”
Afghans Are Painting Over Images of Women While Culture Workers Are Putting Art in Storage as Afghanistan Braces for Taliban Control
artnet news
“On-the-ground sources say no looting has taken place yet—but they don’t necessarily trust the Taliban’s assurances.”

“It was like watching someone take their last breaths,” Says Afghan American Writer Nadia Hashimi
PEN America
“Hashimi spoke to PEN America about the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan, how readers and writers can support one another, and the prospects for women’s rights in the country moving forward.”

Writers’ Organization Issues Dire Warning After Members Reportedly Murdered by Taliban
“PEN America is calling for urgent protections to writers, journalists, and other creatives in Afghanistan following the government's collapse.”

An Afghan Artist Fears For The Future Of His Craft With The Taliban In Control
“For Afghan artist Omaid Sharifi, and for many others living through the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the future is uncertain.”

Afghan artists react to the Taliban takeover
“Particularly threatened by the Taliban, some artists are trying to destroy all proof of their work. Others are creating last pieces as a form of resistance.”
Afghanistan: UN expert warns of "cultural disaster,"  urges visas for the vulnerable
United Nations Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights

Afghan Artists and Writers Urge US to Keep Embassy Open
“The Afghan American Artists and Writers Association has supported calls for the United States government to keep its embassy in the capital open ‘at all costs’ to protect refugees.”

Afghan Women Artists Took On Patriarchy For Years. What Now, Under Taliban?
“On streets, with digital tools, through photographs, on canvases — Afghan women artists over the last two decades were beginning to find compensation for all the opportunities of expression they lost during the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001. Dreams took flight into the horizons of possibility, of equality. Only to be shattered again.”
Additional Resources and Calls for Action
Artists at Risk Connection (find help)

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
Women's Refugee Commission
Read their one-page fact sheet on immediate actions for the Biden administration and world leaders.

Futures Without Violence   
Presenting numerous ways to donate to or volunteer for evacuation, relief and resettlement efforts. (Read to the end of the page.)

Dr. Jessica Litwak, Team Leader for the Artists & Human Rights Initiative for Theatre Without Borders, on behalf of AHRDO, the  Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization, Kabul, has shared the following extensive listings of information and sources of support and action.

For People in the USA:

Tell Congress to protect Writers in Afghanistan
Write to your member of Congress and ask that they urge the Biden administration to protect writers and human rights defenders in Afghanistan now.

A call to American journalists

two smiling boys, one playing drums

My Musician Colleagues in Afghanistan, by Michael Lindsey, University of California, Santa Cruz 
(at left, below)
woman playing violin and looking at sheet music
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Peacebuilding and the Arts Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Brandeis University
415 South Street | MS 086 | Waltham, MA 02454-9110

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