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Girls & Boys of Afghanistan National Institute of Music Amplify Women’s Voices with International Women’s Day Video

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Watch ANIM students perform “A Woman’s Battle Cry (Shoulder to Shoulder).”

(March 8, 2023) — Today, the students and faculty of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) recognize 2023 International Women’s Day with the release of a new film capturing their choral and orchestral performance of “A Woman’s Battle Cry (Shoulder to Shoulder).” In solidarity with Afghan women and organizations who support oppressed women around the world, the co-educational school has marked International Women’s Day with special performances and videos each year since its founding in 2010. While marking the occasion from its new home in Portugal this year, ANIM aims to amplify the voices of the millions of Afghan women who remain in increasingly perilous conditions in their shared native land.

Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast, ANIM’s founder and director, comments:

“The participation of ANIM in this year’s International Women’s Day coincides with Taliban tyranny and repression of women as the Taliban attempt to eliminate Afghan women from political, social and cultural life. Under such dire circumstances it’s the responsibility of every Afghan to condemn the erasure of women from Afghan society. We must all work together to amplify women’s voices throughout the world and demand the immediate restoration of their rights.”

Since taking back control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has once again banned music, music education and girls’ education. Following the dramatic rescue of 273 members of ANIM from Kabul in December 2021, the musicians of ANIM continue to study and perform from their new home in Portugal.

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Member of ANIM Ensemble (photo: Claudia Höhne)

For 2023 International Women’s Day, the faculty and students of ANIM have created an original arrangement for choir and orchestra of “A Woman’s Battle Cry (Shoulder to Shoulder).” This was inspired by an anonymous video, released by two Afghan women just days after the Taliban decree of December 20, 2022 that officially forbade women to work. The lyrics call for everyone to unite in the fight for women’s rights, and to work “shoulder to shoulder” for freedom. At a time when the Taliban not only forbids music, but also forbids women from working, studying, traveling and even appearing unaccompanied in public, the students of ANIM – both boys and girls – sing together in solidarity as a symbol to the world of what is possible when men and women come together to demand freedom and opportunity for all.

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The anonymous Afghan women who created “A Woman’s Battle Cry (Shoulder to Shoulder)”

ای آه تو سوزنده تر از آه زمانه
رزم تو قشنگ است به فریاد زنانه

آشفته مشو غیر مده صفحه تقدیر
هر چند ترا خلق بگویند که فلانه
از ظاهرت هفت رنگ بشستند و کنون تو
نوری که نهان گشته زه تیری زمانه

تا کی به تماشا به تماشای فراق خود و خان
این خانه فروشند پلیدان به بیگانه
L تنها نگذارید نگذارید به میدانش عزیران
شاهین که پرید از پی پرواز ز لانه

ای در دل من گشته تو فانوس شبانه
نوری که نهان گشته زه تیری زمانه
خواهی بدر آریم بدر آریم غم و دیوار ز خانه.
وقت است برزمیم من و تو شانه به شانه

A Woman’s Battle Cry
It’s Time for You and Me to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder

Oh, your sigh burns more than the sigh of time
Your struggle is beautiful, a woman’s battle cry

Do not anger, do not forego your destiny
Even if they dismiss you as no one,
And your beautiful seven colors have been washed away,
Still your light persists, hidden by the darkness of this moment

Do not close your eyes to our destiny and the destiny of our country
The cruel forces will sell out our homeland
Do not leave it abandoned
Do not abandon the falcon that has flown to freedom

You are a beacon of light in my heart
A light that is hidden in the darkness of this moment
If you want to banish the grieving and darkness from our home
It’s time for you and me to stand shoulder to shoulder

About the Afghanistan National Institute of Music

Since its founding in 2010, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music 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 the rare opportunity to learn side by side, and to study both Western and Afghan music, while also receiving a general education. Under Taliban occupation, however, the school’s original Kabul campus has been turned into a command center for the Haqqani Taliban network. The school’s bank accounts were frozen, its offices ransacked and its instruments abandoned behind locked doors. Only by evacuating and relocating its people outside the country could ANIM hope to realize its students’ educational dreams and keep Afghan culture alive.

By reopening ANIM in its new Portuguese location, Dr. Sarmast has started the students on the road to recovery from their traumatic experiences. Already they have begun to continue their education. Over the longer-term, audiences around the world can look forward to the all-female Zohra Orchestra and the school’s other celebrated ensembles, including the Afghan Youth Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra, resuming their international touring schedules. Furthermore, Dr. Sarmast and the Portuguese government are working to expand upon ANIM’s mission to transform lives through music and education. The Portuguese government shares Dr. Sarmast’s vision of ANIM as the heart of a new Afghan cultural center, where exiled Afghan musicians, writers and visual artists will be able to convene, keep alive the art forms they are no longer free to practice in the land of their birth, and share them with the Portuguese community.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

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© ANIM/21C Media Group, March 2023


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