Music Under Siege

What can we do to help Afghanistan’s musicians at risk?

Julie Trebault by Pen america
Dr. Ahmad Sarmast by ANIM
Mirwaiss Sidiqi by Guido Werner


Chaired by Julie Trebault (USA), PEN America's Artists at Risk Connection;

with Dr Ahmad Sarmast (Afghanistan/Australia/Portugal), ANIM;
Mirwaiss Sidiqi (UK), music ethnologist

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Afghan musicians have found themselves in the crossfire of a political and economic crisis, with many forced to flee their country in the hope of building a new home for themselves and their creative legacy. The Taliban banned music the last time they were in power and shortly after they took over the country again they executed Fawad Andarabi, a well-known folk singer, and shut down Kabul University’s music department, while the renowned all-women Zohra Orchestra was forced to flee. Many more remain in the country, either by choice or by circumstance, and live in constant fear.

In the wake of this crisis, it is vital for the international music community to rethink cross-border solidarity and emergency and relocation measures, as well as explore innovative ways to preserve Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage.