IN SOLIDARITY WITH AFGHANISTAN

September 24, 2021
Demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Soraia Khawari

AN APPEAL FROM THE SAFEMUSE CHAIR OF THE BOARD

On Saturday 11th of September 2021, Safemuse attended a demonstration outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the political overturn and seizure of Kabul by Taliban in August. The unfolding of fear, panic, economic collapse and consequent hardships has led to a widespread concern for civilians, artists, human rights activists and a democracy under threat. Together with a large number of organisations, artists, political representatives and individuals, we gathered to mark our solidarity with Afghanistan and its people. 

Chairman of Safemuse, Anders Hovind. Photo: Bodil Diesen / CREO

Anders Hovind, the chair of the Safemuse board, made the following appeal:  

Almost four years ago, we at Safemuse helped the Afghan musician Hamid Sakhizada and his wife, as Norway’s second musician in the Cities of Refuge program, get a safe stay in Harstad. Despite a great career as a Hazara musician in his home country, he was threatened and violently harassed by religious fanatics and other groups who opposed the Hazara minority. Two of Hamid’s music students were kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban. One was killed. And so if this was four years ago, what do you think the situation is today? Pictures of destroyed cultural schools with smashed musical instruments testify that Taliban’s terror regime has not changed significantly in the last twenty years. 

Here in Norway we are used to thinking of art as decoration and entertainment, but in many other countries and especially in Afghanistan, this is a battle of life and death. Artist and filmmaker Deeyah Khan says: – If you want to understand the importance of music and art, you have to look at what oppressive regimes do: The first to get shot are artists and intellectuals. Dictators understand that art unites us, makes us rise up, is what makes us human, gives us hope and makes us feel alive. To control people, they have to get rid of art. 

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ new strategy for freedom of expression in foreign- and development politics, which was put forth this summer, provided an important signal to raise the awareness of- and the efforts for artists as human rights defenders and as activists. This work must be continued, the framework must be expanded, and the quota for receiving refugees must make room for real international solidarity. Not least when we now see the situation for musicians and artists in Afghanistan!  

Norway must also fulfill its obligations regarding the issuance of visas to artists from the south in line with the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity. Article 16 of the Convention states that artists and cultural workers from developing countries shall be given priority in the granting of visas. This article is systematically violated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. 

In the dramatic and acute situation that has arisen in Afghanistan, both authorities and politicians must understand that humanity is more important than opinion polls. Vulnerable groups in Afghanistan must be given a safe haven abroad and Norway must be in the driver’s seat for granting visas to Afghans whose lives are threatened. 

In Harstad, Hamid and his family have been given a safe home. He is an enrichment for Norwegian cultural life with his concerts and record releases. It is simply a shame that his people don’t get to enjoy an artist who now gets to unfold his work without fear of reprisals. On the other side: by accepting more artists like Hamid we can perhaps make our small contribution so that important cultural heritages are not lost. 

This is the time to act. The people of Afghanistan needs our active support. 

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