Afghanistan: Musician weeps as Taliban burns his musical instruments in front of him

18 January 2022, 15:33 | Updated: 18 January 2022, 15:41

Musician weeps as his instruments are destroyed
Musician weeps as his instruments are destroyed. Picture: Twitter

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Footage shows an Afghan musician made to watch as his musical instruments are set on fire, as the Taliban wage long-term war against music.

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An undated video has gone viral on Twitter showing Taliban fighters burning the drums and harmonium of a local musician in the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

In the recording, posted by journalist Abdulhaq Omeri, the musician is in tears as he is forced to watch his instruments in flames.

Other Afghanistan journalists have made observations from the footage. The musician’s clothes are torn, suggesting that he has been beaten, and his hair has been cut, a common public punishment by the Taliban as a warning ‘for a first-time or relatively minor offence’.

The local musician is also made to say, “I am scum”, before the crowd of people who are gathered around the burning instruments. Laughter can be heard from the Taliban soldiers.

This is the latest video to emerge showing the Taliban's campaign against Afghanistan’s musical and artistic community. 20 years ago, when they were last in power in Afghanistan, the Taliban banned all forms of music-making other than religious singing.

Since the Taliban reassumed control just over five months ago in August 2021, they have reintroduced a ban on music in public places. Scholars believe this to be a slow introduction to completely banning music, which has led to musicians fleeing the country for their safety.

Read more: As musicians flee, Afghanistan's music scene tilters on the edge of silence

This is not the first example of footage showing musical destruction to emerge in recent times.

In late December, another clip went viral on social media, showing some of Afghanistan’s most famous instruments, a rubâb, a tabla, and a harmonium, being smashed with stones by soldiers.

The local musicians, who owned the traditional instruments, were then made to promise that they would never sing or play music again.

There has been one known death of a musician since the Taliban takeover last year. The well-known folk singer, Fawad Andarabi, was dragged from his village home before being shot dead by the Taliban in August 2021.

In response to the shooting, the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, condemned the Taliban’s actions saying: “We call on governments to demand the Taliban respect the human rights of artists.

“We reiterate our plea for governments to find safe, effective ways for artists & cultural workers who need to do so to get out of Afghanistan.”

A student of the Afghanistan National Institute Of Music is embraced after landing in Lisbon, Portugal
A student of the Afghanistan National Institute Of Music is embraced after landing in Lisbon, Portugal. Picture: Getty

Some musicians have been able to escape to neighbouring countries and beyond, such as students from Afghanistan’s only music school, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, who are starting to rebuild their home in Lisbon, Portugal.

The international music community have come out in support of all those who are displaced or caught in the violence. One example of fundraising for those impacted comes this Saturday, 22nd January at the Barbican in London, where Songs of Hope: A Benefit Concert for Afghanistan aims to raise money for selected charities working with people impacted by the conflict.