Arts & Entertainment

The Taliban fear the power of art: filmmaker Sahraa Karimi

By Laura Zornoza

Brussels, Feb 3 (EFE).- The Taliban do not believe in the transformational power of art and fear artists, exiled Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi tells Efe in an interview on Thursday at a conference in Brussels that celebrates women from her home country.

Karimi was forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban rose to power in August 2021.

She speaks with a mixture of determination and nostalgia about her home, her films as she sits with her hair uncovered and her nails painted a bright shade of crimson.

“The Taliban are anti-artists, they are anti-culture. They don’t believe in the power of art or they are afraid of the power of art,” Karimi tells Efe.

The filmmaker speaks with passion of how writers, musicians, painters and filmmakers “through their art, can bring changes in society and even sometimes they can make revolutions.”

The first sign of the Taliban’s contempt for art came with a ban on listening to music.

The Islamic fundamentalist regime has also shuttered cinemas, restricted recording permits, and uses audiovisual formats for propaganda.

If used well, cinema is a very important platform, but it can also be destructive, the director warns.

Karimi managed to escape from Kabul on a flight to Kiev alongside fellow filmmakers.

“It was the most difficult decision of my life, because I returned to Kabul in 2012 to stay there forever. It was home.”

Her focus now is to give a voice to those she has left behind.

“It is my duty to tell the stories of my land and my people. I am not going to give up my profession, I’m not going to give up my abilities and skills as filmmaking and storytelling,” Karimi adds.

A specialist in portraying the women of her country, the filmmaker also became the first woman to head the state-run Afghan Film Organization in May 2019, beating four men to the top spot.

“I’m an independent filmmaker, so it was very hard for me to get to work with the government,” she recalls.

“Unfortunately, now it is under the control of the Taliban, and they are using all the equipment and achievements that I and my team achieved in the last two years for their own propaganda,” she laments.

She now lives and works in Italy and is intent on sharing two messages with the world: the first is directed at governments and echoes the request of dozens of Afghans since August: that the international community must not recognize the Taliban government.

“By recognizing them, they are giving them direct permission to destroy Afghanistan,” she says.

She has also made an appeal to Western citizens when dealing with “those who are forced to leave their countries and inadvertently become refugees.”

“Be kind to them, help them integrate into a new culture, new society. They are educated people, they are talented, they are skillful people, they just need the opportunity to show their abilities. The international community should help them,” she concludes. EFE

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