With the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan, almost all areas of art and culture are threatened with extinction in the country. Students and staff at the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan (ANIM) face uncertain days after the Taliban recently announced they would ban music following their takeover of the country.
The door to the once-famous school now remains closed and its hallways have gone silent.
The institute’s founder and director, Dr Ahman Sarmast, told the BBC that students are afraid to attend the music school after the Taliban came to power. “They clearly understand that if they go back to school they could face consequences or be punished for what they have done,” Sarmast said.
Some students even returned their instruments to school because they felt it was safer there than keeping them at home, where fighters from the Islamist group could fight them.
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The school, located in Kabul, was a popular institute that flourished for more than a decade.
ANIM was one of a kind in the country that trained boys and girls in the same room – a rarity in Islamic Afghanistan. The students learned Afghan and Western classical music.
Even orphans and street children were encouraged to attend, and many graduates were the first in their families to receive a formal education.
The school also established Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, Zohra, which in a short time gained a huge audience across the world. Most of the band members belong to an orphanage in Kabul and are between 13 and 20 years old.
Over the past few weeks, as the Taliban took over the country, the orchestra, like the music school, went completely silent.
“It is a time of devastation of our dreams, of hope, of inspiration for the future,” Dr Sarmast said.
“Students are very scared for their future – not just for their education and their (musical) curriculum, but also for their lives,” he said. “They don’t feel safe in Afghanistan.
While Dr Sarmast is stranded in Australia, his staff report that the Taliban invaded the campus but did not damage it.
Dr. Sarmast, a well-known educationalist throughout Afghanistan, was visiting his family in Australia when the Taliban took control of Kabul. He revealed that the Taliban were looking for him and even pressured some of his staff to hand over the keys to the institute. The director, however, insisted that he would only speak to senior Taliban leaders.