The entry on Ni’mat Khan Sadarang from the musicians’ tazkira in Shahnawaz Khan’s Mirat-i Aftab-numa. Delhi, 1803. British Library, Add. 16, 697.

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26th October 2021 — To People of Northern Ireland

This is a first-person testimony from a professional artist in Afghanistan. They are now in hiding.

22nd October 2021 — Sima’s Story

This story of a young woman musician, “Sima”, was reported by Sarvy Geranpayeh in The Art Newspaper.


22nd October 2021 — Hasib, Freshta, and Anonymous speak

Safi Bugel gave voice to three musicians in exile, hiding, and on the run known to the Campaign in gal-dem magazine.

16th October 2021 — Letter to the West

This is a first-person testimony from a professional musician and music teacher in Afghanistan. They are now in an undisclosed location.

Teaching music in a country like Afghanistan is a completely different experience. You often have to deal with conservative, sometimes violent, ideas held both by many common people and the current government, in order to bring up a generation who are better trained and who can digest the concept that music is a healthy subject. As I see it, this hasn’t happened yet in this country. It needed time and support. These have now faded.

During the years I have worked as a teacher at a music school, I and all of my colleagues were trying our best ourselves to attain higher degrees and to learn up to date music theories. We were doing well, becoming PhDs and MAs in music. We have been ordering books from Iran for our growing music library, and searching for new published materials on the internet. Both colleagues and students now have the ability to critique and analyse Western and Eastern musical forms and Western harmonies, and also understand and develop new ideas regarding the philosophy of music. In just a few years, our ensembles were sufficiently advanced to play in national ceremonies in front of presidents, high ranking officials, and international diplomats, who listened to musicians from Afghanistan performing their national anthems.

But in less than 24 hours all of this was burnt.

Who could believe it? All we can do now is find a hidden shelter, not dress as yesterday, and never play or listen to music again if we don’t want to be murdered. We have to change our homes and hide ourselves as if we were the most dangerous criminals of the country.

Somehow, now, we are locked in our home all day and night. We only get out when we need urgent shopping. We do that with a lot of caution and fear. But that is what we have to do for now. We can’t afford to move houses due to the severe financial challenges we have. We have lost our salaries, and the economical crisis is going to become a big disaster for us. I am so afraid of the time when my neighbours report my address and other evidence to the Taliban. Or if they find my family and molest them to track me down. Every moment which passes increases my concerns that my family, my spouse and my babies, will be harmed because of me.

The Taliban have shown no respect for cultural activities, especially music. Music is Haram in Islam’s Sharia as they define it. It has to be silenced, they say because it awakens sexual desires in the society. The radio and TV stations are banned, music in all its aspects (listening, producing, singing, playing, and …) is highly illicit. Punishments are carried out on the so-called accused ones.

There are reports of musicians being executed by the Taliban. Recently we heard they murdered a traditional musician north of Kabul in Shakardara district. In the past they carried out public shaming by shaving musicians’ heads, ruining their instruments, hanging them around their necks, and circling them around the city. These are all wildly frightening possibilities of what Taliban might do this time to musicians.

The Taliban are especially opposed to the ones who teach music. In a recent report from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music — which is now under the occupation of Taliban — the Taliban insurgents say that the teachers there were teaching Christianity and Judaism, which is completely false. ANIM is simply one of the most well-known and best examples of a good music school; that is all they are. The Taliban logic is impossible to understand. It represents a complete misunderstanding of the school, and a clear ideological opposition towards music.

Our fear is that the Taliban will definitely not allow us to continue teaching music and make more progress in this area. They will sack musicians from our jobs, will hunt us down, and terrorize each of us. Although they announced an amnesty for all former employees of the government, they are nonetheless searching for the members of the army and security forces to execute them. This shows that the Taliban have not changed and cannot be trusted. They haven’t been honest in their actions so far.

I feel very sad for the current situation of my country. Everything has been sad here lately. All the democratic values made through these years were ruined. Our hopes for building a unique music school have all been smashed. This year, we were going to implement an updated version of our curriculum. We were planning for new and innovative progress towards our future. All those efforts were shut down in just a few hours.

In conclusion, I call on the international society to assist us. We have lost all we had here in our home country. If we stay, we will not survive. Providing us visas, resettlements, and evacuation is our urgent need.