Imagine if your life changed instantly.
Imagine if you were told the job you had done for 20 years, the career you had was over because the government believes women should not work – especially in the arts.
Imagine if you were the person supporting your family, and now there is no income, and because of the work you did you are in fear for your life.
Imagine if you were in hiding.
Imagine you are no longer safe in your own home, or anywhere in your country. Where do you go?
This is the situation for Afghan women who had a career in the arts before the Taliban resumed power in August last year. They are at extreme risk, both personally and economically. I spoke with an actor who was recognised as a high profile cinema star in Afghanistan’s blossoming film and TV industry. An industry that was supported by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, in a country whose government was supported and backed by Western democracies like ours. We told them they were safe. But we set them up. We propped up a government that did not have the clout to manage the re-emergence of a totalitarian regime like the Taliban. And then we left.
While it wasn’t appropriate for us to be there, and it’s certainly not appropriate for us to return, there is so much more we could be doing to negotiate better conditions for the people living in Afghanistan. Especially the women.
I have changed the name of this woman, because speaking to me makes her unsafe. I am going to call her Nasrin.
‘I am a film artist. I struggled and became successful in the cinema sector of Afghanistan, despite family and community pressure. I have been working in this field for 11 years. Before the arrival of the Taliban, I had a very normal life. I worked on short films, serials and different songs. I was going to university to study at nighttime. I am the only member of the family who supported my family financially. And we had a comfortable and good life.’
I reflect on my life of liberty. I look at the lives of my daughters; I cannot imagine what it must be like to wake up and be unsafe, unvalued and unrecognised. To be erased.
‘The Taliban oppose the work of women in the arts sector’ says Nasrin. ‘With their arrival, many women became unemployed, miserable. And artists were sacrificed – their right to work was lost. Some of them were even tortured for being artists. That’s why our lives are in danger.’
‘Our lives, from the moment the Taliban come to power, have changed. A week after the Taliban took power, stones were thrown at our house at night and the doorbell rang. When we saw no one outside we became fearful.’
Nasrin is a young woman. She was born into a Western backed Afghanistan that offered her freedom. It offered to uphold the rights of women. It offered her education and economic independence. What Nasrin is now experiencing is unbelievable to her.
‘I had only seen these situations in movies. I never thought I would encounter such things in real life. It was all scary for me. Because of Taliban our lives are in danger. The people of our region are forced to leave their homes and the area where we lived for six years.’
Nasrin – a young, successful woman with so much ahead for her, is now in hiding and in fear for her life.
‘My family and I are in a secret place of a friend’s house, and unfortunately I am not safe, and I am still suffering from severe economic problems, and these days it is very difficult for me.’
We cannot let this happen. Our local refugee groups – including Ballina Region for Refugees, Federal Loves Refugees and Ocean Shores Refugees, are working on humanitarian visas and fundraising to help people like Nasrin and her family survive the bitter Afghanistan winter, and beyond.
There are those who are calling for artists like Nasrin to be recognised as a persecuted ethnic group.
‘I am a human being, like my fellow artists. I call on the world to take our hands and save us from this misery. If we are here for a while, we will perish. We will be killed. Today, our work, our identity and our rights as women have been taken away from us. And our lives are in danger. Afghanistan is no longer a place for artists to live.’
Our local refugee groups have raised enough for ten families to survive. They are aiming for funds for another 40. Can you help? It’s only $200 US to buy them time. Time to work out how they are going to manage in the months that lie ahead.
It’s the least we can do. Please donate what you can through www.br4r.org.au/donate-2/
Refugee advocacy groups are also seeking letters of support from filmmakers, musicians, and local artists of note. Please email [email protected]