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Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM)’s Founding Director, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, Nominated by International Music Council as Five Rights Music Champion

photo: Dr. Sarmast with ANIM students (photo: courtesy of ANIM)

(December 2022)— The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) is delighted to announce that its Founding Director, Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast, has been nominated by the International Music Council (IMC) to serve as a Five Rights Music Champion. Founded by UNESCO in 1949, IMC is the world’s largest network of music organizations and institutions and is dedicated to the advancement of essential music rights for all people. In conjunction with the announcement of Dr. Sarmast’s nomination, IMC has also just released a formal statement demanding that music rights be restored in Afghanistan, which reads in part: “The international music community condemns the cultural and musical genocide in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s unrelenting suppression and violation of the Five Music Rights of the Afghan people as upheld by the International Music Council. … We call on all who love music to raise our collective voices against this systematic destruction and erasure of musical life in the Afghan society.” The entire statement can be read here.

Commenting on his nomination, Dr. Sarmast says:

“In such a tragic moment in the history of contemporary Afghanistan when an entire nation is forced into silence, […] this nomination is extremely important. It is the recognition of the struggle of Afghan people for their music rights.”

IMC President Alfons Karabuda added:

“We are honored that Dr. Sarmast has agreed to serve as a Five Music Rights Champion. IMC and ANIM have a long history of common objectives since at least 2009, when the project Revival of Music Education in Afghanistan was among the laureates of the very first edition of the Music Rights Awards. He incarnates perfectly the Five Music Rights and is an example for all of us.”

As a Five Rights Music Champion, Dr. Sarmast joins a list that includes Cambodia’s Arn Chorn-Pond, Egypt’s Ramy Essam, the UK’s Dame Evelyn Glennie and Kenya’s Tabu Osusa. The Five Music Rights – focusing on expression, learning, access, development and recognition – represent the core values of the International Music Council, serving as a guide to its work as well as that of its broader network comprising some 1000 music organizations in 150 countries. The IMC stands for “a world where everyone can enjoy access to music, where they can learn, experience, create, perform, and express themselves through music, and in which artists of every kind are recognized and fairly remunerated.”

Since its founding by Dr. Sarmast in 2010, ANIM – a 2018 Polar Music Prize laureate – has been internationally recognized as “a great success story in the effort to renew cultural life and the arts in Afghanistan” (NPR). The war-torn nation’s first and only music school, ANIM gave Afghan boys and girls – many of them orphans who had worked on the streets to support themselves – the rare opportunity to learn in a coeducational setting, and to study both Western and Afghan music, while also receiving a general education. When the Taliban occupation jeopardized girls’ secondary education and the practice of music itself, the ANIM community – including the famed, all-female Zohra Orchestra – was forced to escape to Doha, Qatar, reaching its final destination of Lisbon in mid-December of 2021. IMC’s statement demanding that music rights be restored in Afghanistan comes exactly one year after 273 members of the ANIM community landed in Europe. In Lisbon, Dr. Sarmast and ANIM continue to pursue their mission of transforming the lives of disadvantaged children, educating boys and girls together, and helping them realize their artistic dreams. (See coverage of the school’s escape by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.) More information about the important continuing work of ANIM, is available here.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

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© 21C Media Group, December 2022

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