Afghan music students arrive in Portugal, completing their evacuation from Kabul

A group of 272 music students and teachers from the world-renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music, have completed their evacuation from Kabul, via Doha, arriving today in Portugal: in 2018, Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast was awarded the Polar Music Prize for his work with the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). The group were evacuated in October to Doha assisted by the government of Qatar and the Portuguese government have now granted the group visas and will them new premises to establish ANIM in Portugal.
The Portuguese government has agreed to accept the group and is committed to facilitating the establishment of ANIM in Portugal so that the ANIM orchestras including the Zohra Orchestra can resume their artistic life and continue their education. The final obstacle was raising the funds to fly the 273 from Doha to Lisbon and this has been achieved through contacts between the Polar Music Prize, Skill Shift Initiative, Friends of ANIM and SAS and donations from both private individuals and businesses, including a significant donation from Spotify.

Marie Ledin, Managing Director, Polar Music Prize, said: “I’m incredibly happy and proud that in just a few days we have raised the money to help Zohra, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and Dr. Ahmad Sarmast to finally reach their new home in Portugal. I would also like to express my gratitude for all of the generous contributions that we’ve received in just a few days. It is incredible to see the commitment to the artistic futures of these young girls and boys. Thank you!”

Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast, the Director of ANIM, is also the founder of Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra comprised of women between the ages of 13 and 22. The return of the Taliban to power, placed the lives of students, faculty, and staff of ANIM at extreme and direct risk. The school and its community have always been a target of the Taliban which has only been magnified after the recent takeover of the Taliban forcing members of the Zohra Orchestra and ANIM community to flee from Afghanistan. With the assistance of the government of Qatar they were evacuated to Doha.

Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast said: “On behalf of the whole ANIM-community I would like to say how grateful we are for the help we are receiving, not least from Ms. Ledin and Mr. Hillelson for reaching out to their generous network and getting the funds necessary for the flight between Doha and Lisbon. Portugal will be a new chapter for us, and one which we all are very much looking forward to. To know that all the girls and boys are safe and hear the orchestra tune up once again and perform fills me with the greatest joy.”

Please read more about ANIM here
Photo: Dr Ahmad Sarmast and students at the airport in Lisboa, December 13th, 2021.