Refugees in Portugal, young Afghan musicians break the silence imposed by the Taliban

Refugees in Portugal, young Afghan musicians break the silence imposed by the Taliban

Posted on Tue, Mar 14, 2023 at 1:17 pm

“Here we can save our music,” rejoices Ramez, a young Afghan musician who was received in northern Portugal with several of his comrades from the National School of Music who fled their country in 2021, after the Taliban takeover.

“Our hope is that one day we can go back to Afghanistan and show that our music is not dead,” the 19-year-old told AFP, holding a traditional stringed instrument on his knees. Inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Ramez is one of 58 students at the National Conservatory of Music of Afghanistan (Anim), between the ages of 13 and 21, based in the Portuguese cities of Braga and Guimarães.

Together with his companions, several teachers and part of their families, they were 273 refugees who arrived by plane in Lisbon on December 13, 2021, after leaving Afghanistan for fear of reprisals from the Taliban, who closed the schools. And the key and prohibition of public performances.

“When the Taliban reached the gates of Kabul, it was clear that we had to leave,” recalls Ahmed Sarmast, director of the Institute of Animation, who did everything to evacuate students and staff at the emergency institute.

The 61-year-old lost part of his hearing in a Taliban attack in 2014.

– act of resistance –

“Today, Afghanistan is a nation that has fallen silent,” the victim of a “cultural and musical genocide,” adds this specialist in Afghan music, who has made it his mission to protect his country’s musical heritage. and the revival of Portugal’s musical heritage. The school he founded in 2010.

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The project, Mr Sarmast explains, is to “recreate the Conservatory of Music in Exile”. In Portugal, the school has managed to reconfigure most of its activities, such as the Symphony Orchestra or the Flower Ensemble, which is the first all-female orchestra in Afghanistan, created in 2016.

“What we left (to do) is the school itself,” says Mr. Sarmast, who is looking for room to accommodate the animators. He hopes the school will open “within two years”.

While waiting to find a place where she can be reborn, her students are welcomed into the Braga Conservatory, where they continue to play music, as if performing an act of resistance.

“Every performance in our school is a way to protest what is happening in Afghanistan,” notes “Doctor Sarmast,” as his students call him, who performed at the beginning of March at a concert with the famous American violinist of Japanese origin Midori. go to the.

“It’s so good to be here, because we’re all together,” testifies passionately, the 19-year-old percussionist who has shared a three-room apartment since the beginning of the year with another student in the conservatory neighborhood.

Thousands of kilometers from Kabul, Shogufa tries to take advantage of the freedom this new life in Portugal offers. In her spare time, the Beethoven fan enjoys composing music, cooking, going out for a burger, or working out with her classmates at the local gym.

– ‘Continue our studies’ –

While in Afghanistan, high school girls and students no longer have access to modern education, in Portugal “we are lucky to go to school every day” in order to “continue our studies,” assures the young woman with brown hair pulled back.

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Ramez, the rebab player, is also grateful to be able to pursue his passion, but his gaze darkens when he remembers his family back home.

“I talk to my mom every day! She needs to hear my voice every night before bed,” says the young man, whose father and two brothers are also musicians.

Shagofa says she is “very worried” for her parents, as well as for her six brothers and sisters who live in a small village and whose daily life is reduced to “staying at home (…) without plans for the future.”

However, “it is very difficult to be a refugee abroad,” continues the percussionist, who arrived in Braga after spending more than seven months in a former military hospital in Lisbon, a stay under the sign of instability.

“My big dream is to return to Afghanistan one day,” she says, saying she is convinced “that things will work out (…) and that the Taliban will not remain in power forever.”

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About the Author: Lucinda Lima

"Desbravador de cerveja apaixonado. Álcool alcoólico incurável. Geek de bacon. Viciado em web em geral."

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