PRESS: How to help Afghan artists and cultural workers now at risk under the Taliban by The Art Newspaper

SOURCE: The Art Newspaper
Sarvy Geranpayeh


How to help Afghan artists and cultural workers now at risk under the Taliban

Our ongoing series “Dispatches from Afghanistan”, profiling Afghan artists and their experiences since the rise of the Taliban, has shown the desperate plight of creatives in the country. There are a number of organisations that are working to support Afghan artists to give financial, legal and practical assistance. Here we list some of those who actively working with Afghans.

1. Artists At Risk

Artists at Risk (AR) are using their extensive network of 20 AR-Residencies to collaborate with global partners, including governments, to support Afghan artists in need inside and outside of Afghanistan. They are working on a range of projects, including but not limited to finding the right residencies and job opportunities for artists; facilitating a safe hub for those in immediate danger; and providing financial assistance to those in need.

In cooperation with their partners, AR is compiling a “list of lists” of Afghan artists and their families—currently totalling around 2,000 people—who require immediate assistance.

How can you help?

Join projects: Any organisation, anywhere in the world, can contribute by letting AR know that they are willing and able to provide art residencies, jobs, educational opportunities, or even build new safe havens for artists and/or their families. Contact: [email protected]

Financial support: AR require financial support through donations to fund projects. Donations can be made on their website or directly through PayPal. They say no help is too small.


2. New University in Exile Consortium based at the New School

The New University in Exile Consortium based at the New School will host ten endangered Afghan artists on one-year, fully paid fellowships at its New York city campus. The Consortium is also working to provide ten additional fellowships for Afghan artists who will be hosted across a number of their 38 member institutions. They have to raise $500,000 to cover the cost of the paid fellowships.

How can you help?

Financial support: Money will go towards the $500,000 target as well as funding other Consortium member institutions to support Afghan artists. Donations can be made via their website.

Join the Consortium: If you are affiliated with a college or university and would like your institution to take the next step toward becoming a member of the Consortium you can email them. There are a few simple criteria for membership—primarily a commitment by the institution to host an endangered scholar. There are no membership fees.


3. Artistic Freedom Initiative

The Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) has launched the Afghan Artists Protection Project (AAPP) to support endangered Afghan artists inside and outside of the country. The US-based organisation, led by immigration and human rights attorneys, is working on providing pro bono legal representation to secure US visas for those in need as well as offering them resettlement assistance, including fellowships and residency programmes, when in the country.

Since the Afghanistan crisis began they have been flooded with requests for legal assistance. AFI has 900 applications but their current resources will allow them file 20 Afghan visa applications in the coming months. While the organisation provides all its legal assistance free of charge they are not able to cover the government’s visa application fees. Further hindering their efforts, some cases have to be expedited due to the urgency of the situation, which carries a $2,500 government filing fee.

How can you help?

Financial support: Donations will allow the organisation to increase their personnel capacity allowing additional pressing applications to be filed. Donations can also help to pay for the application filing fees required by the government. Donations can be made via their website.

Legal assistance: If you are a US immigration lawyer or firm who would like to get involved and offer pro bono services you can email AFI.

Contact details:

4. Afghan American Artists and Writers Association

The Afghan American Artists and Writers Association (AAAWA) began raising funds to help with the evacuation of Afghan artists and their families. However, since the US withdrawal on 31 August their focus has shifted to trying to provide financial and legal assistance to artists in desperate need to leave the country in collaboration with the Artistic Freedom Initiative.

AAAWA has a list of resources they are familiar with that are working to assist endangered Afghans on their site.

How can you help?

Financial support: AAAWA is raising funds to help with legal fees and the resettlement of artists. Donations can be made here.

Contact details:

5. Afghanistan National Institute of Music

Established in 2010, the institute was instrumental in nurturing musical talents in Afghanistan. They have been closed since the Taliban takeover. Donations to the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) will be used to support the safety and general welfare of their faculty and students.

How can you help?

Financial support: Donations can be made via their website

6. Asia Contemporary Art Forum

Asia Contemporary Art Forum (ACAF), a US non-profit organisation is raising funds on behalf of Arts for Afghanistan, a small coalition of US based independent artists, curators and educators that have joined together (since August 2021), to support the plight of endangered Afghan artists and cultural workers due to the recent regime change in Afghanistan.

How can you help? 

Financial support: ACAF is raising funds to support visa applications, transit and resettlement costs for up to 20 artists and families most at risk, which is estimated to cost $75,000. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donations can e made on the campaign-page Givebutter.

7. ArtLords

Since the fall of Kabul, ArtLords (with the help of its partners) has evacuated and resettled a total of 42 artists and activists connected to the organisation. ArtLords aim to help and resettle as many people as possible by establishing offices in Turkey and Uzbekistan. ArtLords is also looking to work with international partners in the US and around the world to advocate for the rights of artists and Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.

They hope to work with the Afghan refugees in the nine assigned refugee camps around the US and their new communities to help heal the traumas of war and violence through painting therapy sessions and cultural events such as theatre shows and music events.

ArtLords also intends to repaint the murals that were destroyed by the Taliban in Kabul in other cities of the US and educate the American public about Afghanistan’s art and cultural heritage and keep Afghanistan’s art and culture alive.

Contact details:

Want to suggest more organisations and initiatives for this list? Contact the writer on Twitter @SarvyGeranpayeh

This article is part of the ongoing series “Dispatches from Afghanistan”, profiling Afghan artists and their experiences since the rise of the Taliban. Find all of the profiles so far here