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  • Gali Weiss

Flight to Safety

I've been having text conversations daily with musician H over the past few weeks. On Sunday, I sensed something positive was happening when the heart emojis at the end of her messages were changing from black to red, and multiplying! But only once she was in Qatar did I receive the message:

"Today I and my brother we leave the country to Qatar and I am really happy."

The New York Times published an article by Javier C. Hernández on the flight to Qatar.

More than 100 young artists, teachers and their relatives affiliated with the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, a celebrated school that became a target of the Taliban in part for its efforts to promote the education of girls, fled the country on Sunday, the school’s leaders said.

The musicians, many of whom have been trying to leave for more than a month, boarded a flight from Kabul’s main airport and arrived in Doha, the capital of Qatar, around midday Eastern time, according to Ahmad Naser Sarmast, the head of the school, who is currently in Australia. In the coming days, they plan to resettle in Portugal, where the government has agreed to grant them visas.


Still, hundreds of the school’s students, staff and alumni remain in Afghanistan and face an uncertain future amid signs that the Taliban will move to restrict nonreligious music, which they banned outright when they previously led Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001.

The school’s supporters, a global network of artists, philanthropists, politicians and educators, plan to continue to work to get the remaining musicians out of Afghanistan. “The mission is not complete,” said Mr. Sarmast, an Afghan music scholar. “It just began.”

Yo-Yo Ma, the renowned cellist, helped raise awareness about the plight of the musicians among politicians and other artists. He said he was “shaking with excitement” by the news that some of them had escaped.

“It would be a terrible tragedy to lose this essential group of people who are so deeply motivated to have a living tradition be part of the world tradition,” Mr. Ma said in a telephone interview.

Of the musicians who remain stuck in the country, he said, “I am thinking about them every single hour of the day.”


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