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Kabul Dreams playing in Austin, Texas at SXSW 2019. Image: Katrina Lat

Afghan Creatives Driving the Anti-Taliban Resistance

The Taliban took control of their first province in Afghanistan on August 6, 2021, despite the agreement they signed with the U.S. Less than 10 days later, Taliban fighters entered Kabul, the Afghan president fled the country, and the U.S. evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter. The last time this happened was in 1996, when the Taliban enforced a radical government that included public executions. Images of the Taliban today are not dissimilar. Reports from the ground include local protests, fired gunshots, and people desperately tying themselves to evacuation aircrafts, hoping to escape.

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Afghans are outraged, and rightfully so. The international press failed to report on Afghanistan until just moments before Kabul was taken. Now that the world is paying more attention, emergency aid has started to ramp up. Some have turned to fundraising for charities, while others have volunteered their time to support Afghan organizations. Artists and creatives have carved a special place for themselves in this movement, leveraging their art and their platform to raise awareness and inspire action.

Below are just a few of the talented Afghan creatives you should be following right now:

1. Fatimah Hossaini

Fatimah Hossaini is a world-renowned artist, photographer, curator and exhibitioner. She is also the Founder of Mastooraat, an organization that supports female artists in Afghanistan through scholarships, workshops and other creative initiatives. Her work primarily focuses on the themes of identity and femininity in Afghanistan and has been featured at exhibitions and festivals all around the globe, including Iran, India, Turkey, China, Japan, South Korea, New York, and more.

Hossaini’s artwork is absolutely stunning. You can check it out on her online portfolio, or even conduct a free virtual visit of one of her exhibitions, Beauty Amid War.

Ever since the Taliban takeover, Hossaini has been actively speaking out on the news and in the media about the future of women, scholars, and journalists in Afghanistan. She has since been evacuated to a safe country alongside other women artists and journalists but continues to be a vocal proponent.

2. Ariana Delawari

Musician and Filmmaker Ariana Delawari has been among the most active advocates against the Taliban on social media. She knows exactly how to use Instagram and Twitter to amplify the voices of other activists, and to tear apart people who are spreading misinformation. Her Instagram handle was recently blocked from sharing live video, which, candidly – and as frustrating as it may be – means that she’s definitely doing something right. After all, nobody has ever won a war by making friends.

Her fight against the Taliban isn’t a recent development, either. Her film We Came Home follows her life split between Los Angeles and Afghanistan during the previous Taliban resurgence, and the challenges she and her family faced as a result.

Ariana Delawari. Image: Shelby Duncan.

3. Kabul Dreams

Full disclosure: when I’m not doing my day-job, I manage Kabul Dreams, which means I’m not biased in any way, whatsoever (read: definitely 100% biased). That said, I couldn’t be prouder of the work that this group has been doing in the middle of this crisis.

In case you don’t know them, Kabul Dreams consists of Qardash (lead singer and guitarist), Siddique Ahmed (bassist), and Jai Dhar (drummer). The band formed in Kabul in 2008 and have paved the way for a modest but growing rock scene in Afghanistan ever since. When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban earlier this week, the band’s top priority was to serve their country.

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In the span of days, Kabul Dreams has gone on a media blitz, releasing new music videos like the one below, doing interviews with publications like The National, and writing opinion pieces about how the fall of Afghanistan puts artists at risk. The band has even completely re-purposed their official website to direct fans to resources about how they can support those who are in need.

4. Ariana Abawe

Journalist Ariana Abawe is the founder of Ariana Magazine, a publication that aims to share the beautiful side of Afghanistan, rather than the side we typically see in mass media. Part of the proceeds from her publication go towards philanthropic projects that support those living in Afghanistan who are in need. Abawe has taken to social media to fundraise for emergency food packs and has been actively documenting and participating in peaceful protests in London.

5. Hila Hamidi

Hila Hamidi is a writer and producer whose work includes United States of Al, the Emmy-nominated Warner Bros. sitcom that follows the friendship between a Marine combat veteran and an Afghan interpreter. Hamidi has been sharing information about how to access tons of resources amid this crisis, like campaigns to assist internally displaced families, and services that provide legal document translation for Afghan refugees. She has also been bringing attention to reports from local Afghans, making sure we’re getting real and timely information from those on the ground.

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At the time of writing this, resistance fighters in Afghanistan have reportedly recaptured three districts, pushing forward as they take matters into their own hands. In the meantime, activists, artists, and journalists will continue to support the cause, making sure their voices are heard.

If you want to help those in Afghanistan who are most in need, consider supporting some of these organizations:

Afghan Women Activists Fleeing the Taliban

Children Without Borders and Watan Project

Emergency Hospital in Kabul

Afghanaid

Afghan Journalists Safety Committee

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