Since 2010, the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan has been a reference in the fight for gender equality in the country. Not only did it support girls’ education, it created its own full female orchestra in 2015 – Zohra – which even made a global turnaround and became a symbol of change.
But the landscape changed when the Taliban group took control of Afghanistan and the institute became a target to be shot down, says the director, Ahmad Naser Sarmast, in a statement to Observer radio. The new government closed the premises of this music school, the bank account was frozen and teachers were attacked.
With the arrival of the Taliban, the female orchestra fell silent and beyond: “If things continue like this, there will be no music in Afghanistan”
Furthermore, the institute’s director refers to the return of an old rule: in the former government of the extremist group, between 1996 and 2001, most styles of music were banned and now music in Afghanistan.
But there is light in every tunnel and this one is no exception. In this story, the name of this light is Portugal.
After several contacts, in August Ahmad Naser Sarmast spoke with representatives of the Portuguese Government, who guaranteed a new opportunity for the youth of Afghanistan.
The trip was scheduled for August 28, but the director says that “the security of the airport (in Kabul) and the presence of the Taliban” destroyed that hope.
The group was forced to remain in the country, but on Sunday, a part managed to flee to Doha, capital of Qatar. Altogether there are 101 students who escaped the Taliban terror and who now expect to arrive in Portugal in the next few days.
Sarmast says that the Portuguese government has maintained its desire to receive these students, as well as young people who have not yet managed to leave Afghanistan. In addition, families of these students, teachers and staff of the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan will also be welcomed. In all, 284 people will enter a new opportunity.
Ahmad Naser Sarmast sta availability of Portugal as a way to restore happiness to students.
I have often seen the happiness that playing an instrument gives a child, a teenager. It’s how much music makes people happy. That’s how music brings civilizations, religions, people, countries together. What the government of Portugal did was to give a beautiful opportunity to save the traditional music of Afghanistan and share it with the people of Portugal as well.
Sarmast says that the students will have adequate inns and dormitories, as well as the teachers and staff. The principal is not sure if these refugees will all stay together, but he has one request: “students must stay together”. The official also admits that several problems will arise during the first days, which is why he is eager to reach Portugal and get personal answers from the Government.
During the conversation, the director of the music school also refers to the visit of the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan to Portugal, in 2018. Thanks to this trip, the director guaranteed this is “a wonderful choice” and that the students are already “ familiarized with the country and with the love of the Portuguese for music”.
But Ahmad Naser Sarmast wants more. The director of the National Institute of Music points out that the priority is also to save the dreams of children who wish to have a future in music. Sarmast says that he has connections with the Gulbenkian Institute, but that he wants “the music school itself” to preserve traditional Afghan music and to share it with the Portuguese.
The Observer tried to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm receipt of these students, but was unable to obtain an answer. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is not aware of the agreement for students at the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan.