“A letter from the suffering artists of Afghanistan to President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson, President Macron, Federal Chancellor Scholz, President von der Leyen, Secretary General Stoltenberg, Secretary General Guterres, and to all governments and people in the free world
Our warm regards to you!
We, a group of dedicated Afghan artists and cultural workers, are writing this letter at a time when our arts and cultural activities have been brutally halted and we pass our days and nights secretly inside our homes in poverty.
Jobless, futureless, in constant fear of arrest and death at the hands of the Taliban, we do not live but merely exist. A profound darkness has befallen Afghanistan.
Over the last two decades, and despite myriad challenges, our generation eagerly grasped the freedom and opportunities that the international community so generously helped open up in Afghanistan to study, educate, and develop ourselves, to fight for freedom, and to defend human rights. We worked passionately for the regrowth of our arts and culture so grievously wounded by decades of war. We succeeded in gaining ground in free expression and the right to vote. We opened cinemas, painted our subjects freely, played music and sang. We made movies, held art exhibitions and music concerts.
Now, due to Taliban bigotry, this rich legacy of two decades is at extreme risk and our work and way of life have come to an abrupt end.
Over the years, sadly, numerous innocent artists and cultural workers have fallen victim to horrifying Taliban suicide attacks and other inhuman atrocities. Yet we have continued to fight against their dark mentality. Our colleagues have faced the many accompanying dangers bravely. Artists of our generation have become the bloodied symbols of artistic integrity, abjuring extremism, upholding freedom, democracy, and human rights.
The Taliban consider creative artists anti-Islamic. These are lies. Knowing them, however, during the recent peace negotiations we raised our concerns about the likely fate of Afghanistan’s cultural community if the country fell to the Taliban. Tragically, these warnings went unheeded. Now our country is in the grip of a barbarous and destructive sect and a dark future awaits millions of innocent Afghans.
Our fervent hope, like those of our many friends throughout the international community, was that Afghanistan would have peace under their protection and that no power would undo the gains Afghanistan has achieved over the last two decades. Tragically that was not to be and the reality is that freedom of speech, international human rights, the rights of women, artists, cultural workers, filmmakers, democracy itself – the bases of civilized life enjoyed by our friends and shared with us – have been extinguished in Afghanistan.
It is beyond belief that the Taliban, one of the largest and most deadly of terrorist organisations, has subjugated Afghanistan. A group that murdered thousands of innocent people, destroyed our cultural heritage, exterminated artists and obliterated cultural centres with their ceaseless, brutal suicide and other terror attacks, are now in control and seen in the comfort of the most luxurious hotels in Kabul and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan the Taliban impose their reign of terror, destroy the futures of Afghan women, close down education for Afghan girls, and preside over the collapse of the national economy and a fast approaching famine that risks the lives of millions of innocent Afghans.
We shall never accept the monstrous misery and darkness they have brought and will continue to struggle against it by every means possible. We urge the world to rise up and join us in condemning the horror and cruelty growing daily in our country.
Many artists, cultural workers and journalists are in the gravest danger at Taliban hands and are stranded in Afghanistan. These people need urgent help to leave. There is no future for them in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Instant death will be the inevitable result of defiance and to remain is to be forced to forswear our working vocations, an agonizing form of slow death.
We implore you, Mr Biden, Mr Johnson, Monsieur Macron, Mr Scholz, Madame von der Leyen, Mr Stoltenberg, Senhor Guterres, leaders of the Free World and the international community, recognizing that Afghanistan’s present predicament belongs not only to Afghans but to all those who have bravely fought and died there, to acknowledge our agony. We ask you directly to hold out your hands to us with practical steps to help us relocate to safety where we can continue our stewardship of Afghanistan’s arts and culture and ensure that the precious national culture and spirit of the Afghan people remains alive for future generations. As Saadi, one of our greatest poets, has written:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In the creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
With deep respect,
A group of Afghan artists, cultural workers and journalists”