Conflicts & War

In times of gloom, Afghan circus sisters spread joyful hope

Kabul, Nov 2 (EFE).- Far from being intimidated by the Taliban-imposed restrictions, two teenage Afghan sisters are spreading joy and fun in the most unlikely manner in today’s Islamist-ruled Afghanistan: by the art of circus.

Bahara and Najma not only put on spectacular circus acts but also inspire and train others to pursue the art form.

Since the Taliban took over in August last year, the Islamist regime has curbed women’s right to political participation and banned girls from attending school past the sixth grade.

Women are barred from working most jobs outside the home and cannot travel long distances without a male chaperone.

And Bahara, 15, and Najma, 17, wait for the Taliban to allow them to resume their school.

Until then, the sisters from their mud house in the west of Kabul teach others the circus skills they learned in school.

“There is no choice for us. We have to live. Without having a goal in life, staying home is really difficult. So I started teaching children circus to at least engage myself with something,” Bahara, a Class 7 student, told EFE.

The sisters have limited their movement in the wake of the restrictions by the Islamists, who, despite initial promises that women would be allowed to exercise their rights under the Sharia law, have excluded women and girls from public life, including government offices.

Echoing her sister, Najma said they had created a ray of hope around the clouds of despair by teaching the children to juggle and perform theatrical arts to spread fun and entertainment.

The sisters have learned the art from Khalilullah Hamid, the founder of the Afghan Parwana circus, who taught hundreds of students for two decades after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The situation, however, changed with the return of the extremists to power and foreign donors fleeing Afghanistan.

The number of trainees has gone down to around 45.

“I am struggling to feed my family,” Hamid told EFE.

He said it was tough to keep the circus school running but would still do that because “I am very interested in it.”

The circus lover, who founded Afghan Parwana to “create a brighter world for the children and youth of Afghanistan”, instilling in them “joy, hope, and peace” in a country at war, now only sees a bleak future.

“In the last 20 years, we had hundreds of students and several donors for supporting children in Afghanistan,” Hameed said.

He lamented that due to the lack of donors, the circus art was nearing its end in Afghanistan.

Psychologist Azada Joya told EFE that pessimism had clouded the young Afghans due to the decades of war and the Taliban restrictions.

She said the recreational activities like those promoted by Bahara and Najma were of great help to break that vicious cycle of doom and gloom.

“As a psychology consultant, I always tell my students to … engage in sports, handicrafts, study assignments, so that … they believe that the sky will not remain always cloudy. One day the sun will shine and everything will be ok,” Joya said. EFE

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