All members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music have now been evacuated from Kabul – News

All students, teachers, staff and family from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) have now been evacuated from Kabul following a fifth and final successful airlift on 16 November.

According to information released by ANIM, all 272 children and adults affiliated with the school are now in Qatar and there are plans to rebuild the school in Portugal.

The evacuated musicians include master musicians such as 85-year-old Ustad Rasool Azizi, the leading exponent of traditional Afghan music at tanbur, and the school’s 125 students. One of the students, 20-year-old violinist Gulmeena Khushdi, said: “Now that we have our freedom back, I hope to live my life and pursue my dream of becoming a successful musician.”

The evacuation of the school is one of the largest group rescues of vulnerable Afghans to date. The state of Qatar provided flights, diplomatic assistance and temporary accommodation, and the Portuguese government has granted ANIM community members group asylum. Members of the artistic community, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Daniel Barenboim, supported evacuation efforts as well as a two-part group of U.S. lawmakers, leading philanthropists, diplomacy experts, military veterans and pro bono lawyers.

Dr Ahmad Sarmast, Founder and Director of ANIM said: “Now that the last two students have been reunited with the rest of the ANIM community, I am very pleased to see that the hard work of everyone involved in saving our youth and master musicians have finally paid off.

“Today we celebrate their freedom to make music, continue their education and cherish the rich musical tradition of Afghanistan in exile, while sharing its beauty with the rest of the world.”

ANIM, founded in 2010, was Afghanistan’s first and only music school. One of the few co-educational institutions in the country, it allowed students to learn traditional Afghan music along with Western music. The school received international recognition for its work in reviving music culture in Afghanistan after the Taliban occupation through the 1990s. The school’s ensembles, including Afghanistan’s first women’s orchestra, the Zohra Orchestra, conducted several high-profile tours, including to Australia in 2019.

The future of music in Afghanistan has been uncertain since the recent Taliban occupation. During the 1990s, music was explicitly banned, but no official decrees of the new regime have yet been issued. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the New York Times in August that music would not be allowed in public because it was “forbidden in Islam” and that the Taliban “hoped to persuade people not to listen to it.”

With plans on the way to rebuilding ANIM in Portugal, the school’s students have the chance to continue their education and secure a future for Afghan music.


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