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5 creatives giving us perspective on the situation in Afghanistan

While everyone is dancing on milk crates in the US the situation in Afghanistan still persists…

On September 11 this year, President Biden will finish up withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan, according to U.S officials. As the U.S troops (and other foreign forces) are departing and the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, Afghanistan is now in a state of chaos.

Afghanistan situation
Image via CNN.

Twenty years later, the Taliban is back. No longer backed by the Western government, Afghanistan is now quickly occupied by insurgents. They have taken over the Afghan Presidential Palace and seized power.

Fearing for the Taliban’s revenge on the country for its previous connection with the U.S, Afghans have been rushing to the airport and trying to flee the country.

We read the news about Afghanistan every day, but what we know and see are mostly just the surface. There are, however, creatives in and outside Afghanistan delivering authentic information and unique perspectives on the country’s situation to the world out there. Thanks to them, outsiders are able to learn about the event from a fuller aspect.

Shamsia Hassani

What also happened when the Taliban took control of the country? Since the Taliban took over the government, they have promised to respect women’s rights. But is it really going to happen? Many Afghans are skeptical about the statement.

Back at the time, as Joseph Krauss writes, “women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside.”

If the social status of Afghan women is going to return to how it was twenty years ago, what kind of a future that they are going to face?

afghan women
PHOTO CRED: Shamsia Hassani.

Afghan female graffiti artist, Shamsia Hassani, stands up to defy such possibility through spraying arts in the public. She will not be silent, the Afghan women will not be silent. The female voices must still be celebrated.

Hassani has popularized street art in the streets of Kabul and her art has been exhibited all around the world. To the artist, graffiti is her unique means to bring people awareness to the war years.

War is cruel, but Hassani doesn’t want the world to remember Afghanistan as a place of chaos and destructive situations. Instead, she wants her country to be famous for its art, not its war.

The subjects of her art are women with burqas. The female images, according to the artist, are the new women of Afghanistan.

They are stylized, strong, energetic, and unapologetic. In an interview with Street Art Bio, Hassani explains that the demonstration of female presence in the public is more important than anything.

Painting the female images on the walls kind of forces the others to look into the situations Afghan women experience in reality.

Tommy Marcus

People might not know who Tommy Marcus is but have probably heard about @Quentin.Quarantino. On this account, Marcus is a meme artist who posts anti-capitalist, anti-billionaire content.

Amid the recent Taliban take over Afghanistan situation, he has raised over $6 million in just a couple of days via his GoFundMe page.

On the Taliban ‘kill list’, there are Afghan men and women who are human rights lawyers, champions of Women’s and LGBTQ rights, journalists, government liaisons, artists, and interpreters.

His goal is to help fly out Afghans targeted by the Taliban.

Marcus managed to reach his original $550,000 fundraising goal in the first 38 minutes of launching his campaign. In two days, the present raise has already surpassed $6 million.

This is an urgent rescue mission, as Marcus puts it. The sooner these people get rescued and flown out of the country, the safer they will be.

It has been devastating to see over the past few days, crowds of people racing to the airport, clinging to a flying jet, and eventually falling to death from the sky.

The Afghans knew either way is doomed, but still, they believe that falling to death is better than living in the horror of a violent and extremist regime.

But thanks to Marcus’s GoFundMe and some former U.S. military and special operations personnel, this humanitarian mission carries out incredibly.

Sahraa Karimi 

Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Sahraa Karimi came back to Afghanistan at the age of 29. She is the first female chairperson of the Afghan Film Organization and the first and only Afghan woman who has a Ph.D. in cinema and filmmaking.

Karimi fled Afghanistan with her family when the Taliban took control of Kabul. They missed an initial flight to Ukraine in the middle of the chaos at the airport but arrived safely two days later.

On August 13, Karimi published an open letter online to “call on the international film community to act to protect filmmakers and other cultural creatives from Taliban violence.”

“A genocide of filmmakers and artists,” Karimi warned if the international community fails to act. After arriving in Ukraine, the Afghan director has not stopped working to get 36 other Afghan filmmakers and their families out of the country.

On her Twitter account, Karimi describes herself as an artist who revitalizes and preserves culture and as an actor of change. She would stay in Afghanistan if the Taliban will let her create the work she wants.

However, she highly doubts that would happen as her films are mostly about representations of the voices of Afghan women who have long been muted in society.

Besides, she couldn’t afford a future where her nieces would grow up under the Taliban regime; they would be barred from entering school, getting educated, and working.

If the future of the younger generations cannot be promised, changes can never happen and humanity will continue being trampled.

Paula Bronstein

Photojournalist Paula Bronstein was on assignment in Afghanistan in the final months before the Taliban takeover. Her photos and perspective document the country’s descent into chaos and confusion.”

Politico Magazine.
PHOTO CRED: Paula Bronstein.

Bronstein got to Afghanistan on June 14 this year and was assigned to focus on stories about the U.S. pullout. The takeover of the Taliban, as Bronstein depicts, developed at such a fast pace that the situation became more desperate every time she documented. The story, too, was constantly changing.

After her departure, she has been receiving messages asking for help from people in Afghanistan. There is only so much she can do, though. As a photojournalist, she is connected with her subjects. In this case, the real-life and culture in Afghanistan.

She documents war-life-induced situations in Afghanistan and shows them to the world. Taking photos of the painful and devastating moments of other people is a cruel process.

Sometimes, it is even perceived as cold-blooded. However, when the world sees what is really going on in the country, these photos carry out a humanitarian purpose.

As they shock the world with images of death and destruction, they also provoke compassion and stimulate the rescue process.

Omaid Sharifi

Between 1996 and 2001, when the Taliban was ruling Afghanistan, art creation was taboo. According to an article from NPR, the Taliban “denied music, destroyed the giant carved Buddha statues of Bamiyan and banned all artistic representations of the human form.”

Omaid Sharifi is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit arts organization ArtLords. His murals focus on empathy and kindness. In his interview with NPR, he notes that Afghanistan is a wounded country that needs healing. He is doing it through his art.

However, as the Taliban took control of the country, Sharifi fears for the future of his art. The artist is not sure if he is able to paint again and if his works are still going to be out there tomorrow. Even so, he still chooses to remain hopeful.

In a Stories of Transformation podcast, Sharifi defines the purpose of his organization.

“Artlords is not just a mural organization, but a movement to try to bring empathy, love, kindness, creativity, critical thinking [to Afghanistan]…to mainstream it, to make sure that everybody notices this, and uses art.”

Growing up amidst oppression and violence, Sharifi has learned to do anything to survive. But besides simply surviving the chaos around him, he has always wanted to revitalize the world. He wants to beautify the scars, poverty, corruption, and violence that are brought by the war with his arts.

Today, he remains in Afghanistan as an artist and activist. His beautiful murals can be found across the entirety of Afghanistan; they deliver positive and empowering messages to the young Afghans and serve as bridges that connect different cultures and classes.

Praying for the Afghanistan situation is not enough…

pray for afghanistan
Image via KCM.

When is this ever going to end? Afghanistan has been constantly caught in the loop of violence. And most importantly, what is the country going to look like under the ruling of the Taliban?

Nobody can really answer these questions because there is so much uncertainty. But at least, we can still think about how we can do to help with the situation in Afghanistan.

With social media, we can show our empathy and support through sharing news about Afghanistan and posting fund/donation links where people can offer more practical help.

Additionally, check out media accounts such as @so.informed to learn about how to support Afghan refugees and Afghans who have remained on the ground in Afghanistan from different parts of the world.

Last but not least, also check out Women for Women International to help women survivors of war and violence rebuild their lives by providing training programs and support!

Veteran who served in Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD is being deported by ICE

Miguel Perez Jr., a 39-year-old US Army veteran who has been in the United States for 30 years and served two tours of service in Afghanistan, is being held in an ICE detainment center with possible deportation to Mexico.

Much has been made of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since Trump took office over a year ago. The government agency has taken up aggressive and ideological tactics, deporting people who have lived in the country for decades, separating families, and neglecting detainees in custody.

For Perez, who is being held in a detainment center near Kenosha, Wisconsin, deportation means taking him away from his family, losing necessary treatment for PTSD and anxiety, and the threat of violence in Mexico.

Perez, who started a hunger strike last week to protest his case, told CNN about what awaits him if he is deported:

“If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time? There is a saying that goes, ‘I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.’ In Mexico, I will have to live in fear, like a coward. No. I’d rather die right here, like a man fighting against something that makes no sense — this thing of deporting veterans does not make sense even if they try to justify with the law.”

The veteran’s situation is complicated by the fact that he was convicted of felony drug trafficking and discharged from the army for drug use. In 2010, Perez delivered over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

But in prison, Perez was actually able to get the proper treatment for his PTSD, substance abuse, and finish his associate’s degree. Perez told CNN:

“It was in prison that I was finally able to get the treatment I needed for my PTSD. They had a lot of substance abuse programs, and now is when I finally feel like the person I used to be. I won’t say a new person, but like when I was younger.”

Perez’s frustration with his situation is obvious, and pretty damn understandable:

“I went through the system and I accepted all of the consequences that came with declaring myself guilty of a crime, the way it should be. And now they want to deport me with nothing, without thinking to themselves that I sacrificed my life fighting for this country.”

ICE said in a statement that they take military service into account on a case-by-case basis:

“Respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving US military veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by the office of chief counsel… ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, on a case-by-case basis for members of the armed forces who have served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that is considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”

Surely even the most intense border hawks in our country don’t think deporting a veteran suffering with PTSD back to violence in Mexico is a reasonable policy. Perez’s case has sparked outrage, especially with the optics of Trump’s own military deferral for “bone spurs.”

Abolish ICE.