Haqqani network fighters appear in a room at the Afghan National Institute of Music, ANIM, in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2021 (File photo: AP)
The group of 273 people, including some 150 students, flew to Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, from Doha, Qatar. Their departure from Afghanistan was spread over five airlifts to Doha over six weeks in October and November.
“The arrival of the (institute) community today means that the first and most important step in saving lives and securing freedom is now over,” said the founder and director of the institute, the Dr Ahmad Sarmast, in a written statement.
Governments, businesses and private donors have covered the group’s evacuation and resettlement expenses.
“From now on, the musicians (of the institute) will be a symbol of courage and determination, not only for Afghan artists, but also for the Afghan people, in their struggle against the oppression and tyranny of the Taliban.” , Sarmast said.
The musicians are among tens of thousands of Afghans, including many in the country‘s sports and arts community, who have fled since Taliban fighters seized Afghanistan in August, when the United States and the NATO have ended their 20-year military presence.
The Afghan girls’ football team has also relocated to Portugal.
Afghanistan has a strong musical tradition and a pop music scene has flourished there over the past two decades. But many musicians fear for their future under the Taliban, who rule under a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
The Afghan National Institute of Music, founded in 2010, was renowned for its inclusiveness. It has become the symbol of a new Afghanistan, with boys and girls studying together and performing to packed halls in the United States and Europe.
The school’s campus in Kabul is now occupied by a Taliban faction. His bank accounts were frozen and his offices ransacked, according to former school officials.
The plan is to recreate the school in Portugal, allowing students to continue their studies, as part of a larger Lisbon-based center for Afghan culture that will welcome the exiles.