Artists at Risk (AR) Calls Upon International Community to Ensure Safety of Afghan Artists and Human Rights Defenders

Foreign powers must urgently resettle vulnerable Afghans at risk of reprisals and repression at the hands of the Taliban.

Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi warns that “the Taliban will ban all art.”
Deutsche Welle

Gravely concerned by Afghanistan’s collapse in the face of the Taliban offensive and the hasty evacuation of Kabul by America and other foreign powers, Artists at Risk (AR) is calling upon all members of the international community to make firm and concerted efforts to ensure the safety of Afghan artists and other human rights defenders (HRDs), up to and including mass evacuations and relocations abroad.

With reports of atrocities, reprisal attacks and the curtailing of women’s rights coming in from across Afghanistan as the Taliban swept the country, the international community should be under no illusion about the promises the Taliban have made to respect human rights and ensure the safety of Afghan citizens. Reports of a popular local comedian’s murder in Kandahar following that city’s fall to the Taliban portend a grim future for artists and other HRDs whose work and values run afoul of the Taliban’s radically conservative and oppressive ideology.

AR  is currently receiving a flood of applications and requests for assistance from a variety of individuals in the country, from university professors in various genres of art to filmmakers and actors, whose identities we cannot disclose for security reasons. This is also the case for many partner organisations working in the field of arts and human rights. Given the scale of the impending disaster, the security situation on the ground and the logistics of organising mass evacuations, non-governmental organisations such as AR do not have the capacity or resources to facilitate these urgently needed relocations.

We urgently appeal to the United Nations, the European Union and other state and non-state actors to do everything in their power to facilitate the urgent evacuation and relocation of Afghani people who need to leave for fear of reprisals, and particularly artists and HRDs who have defended a non-fundamentalist way of life, and have and will undoubtedly be persecuted with the Taliban in power.

This is not a question of geopolitics and where one stands on the merits and demerits of interventions in Afghanistan. It is the political and ethical obligation – especially of the western countries that ostensibly intervened in the country in 2001 for these reasons – to help those who have stood for the most basic social, cultural and artistic rights and freedoms which are now being punished by what is a hyper-authoritarian Taliban regime. These include the ability to engage in non-religious cultural life, science and art — especially as concerns women, not to speak of LGBTQ+ persons — and the freedom to lead a basic social existence without fear of reprisals for any activities not condoned by religious-fundamentalist men with machine-guns.

Artists at Risk (AR) and the wider AR-Network of partner organisations, artists and activists stand ready to help in the effort to provide safe havens for Afghan artists and HRDs at risk. We are unable to act, however, without the assistance of state-level actors in facilitating their escape from the country.

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