After weeks of failed attempts at fleeing the Taliban, members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and Zohra Orchestra have finally escaped. On Sunday, 101 students, teachers and musicians were airlifted to Doha, Qatar.
“One hundred lives have been saved. One hundred dreams have been saved,” says an emotional Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, ANIM’s director and founder.
The Taliban forbids artistic self-expression. Even listening to music is prohibited. For weeks now, the international community, including members of Congress and leading musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, has been trying to help the musicians and students of ANIM escape. In September, members of the all-female Zohra Orchestra made it within yards of the airport but were turned away when Taliban guards reportedly refused to wake a sleeping commander at the Kabul airport.
Sarmast, who spoke to NPR from Australia where he’s visiting family, says this evacuation was successful because of “a lot of negotiations behind the scenes,” and singles out “the contribution of our friends on the ground from the Qatar Embassy and also the foreign minister of Qatar.” He says he cried when he learned their plane had taken off from Kabul.
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