Campaign to Protect Afghanistan's Musicians

Campaign to Protect Afghanistan's Musicians

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Petition to
United Nations and

Why this petition matters

We call upon the world’s governments 1) to recognise that all of Afghanistan’s musicians are targeted by the Taliban as members of a particular social group; and 2) to explicitly name musicians as a priority for humanitarian visas under their Afghanistan resettlement programmes.

Since they took power on 15 August 2021, the Taliban have attempted and carried out assassinations of traditional musicians; threatened, harrassed, and punished listeners and performers; banned music on radio stations and in public places; and destroyed instruments in institutions such as the national broadcaster, RTA. Afghanistan's musicians are now in hiding, burying and destroying their own instruments, moving from house to house, terrified for their lives. They are all at imminent and extreme risk.

We contend that under the 1951 Refugee Convention, Afghanistan’s musicians right now clearly constitute “members of a particular social group” who are under wholesale and immediate threat simply on account of being musicians. Yet, so far, almost no governments have prioritised them for humanitarian protection.

This deprioritisation is due to a misunderstanding of the nature of the Taliban’s opposition to music. The Taliban do not discriminate: it doesn’t matter whether a musician plays Western or traditional styles, or whether their lyrics are political or indeed there are no lyrics at all. The Taliban are ideologically opposed to the sound of music itself as morally corrupting. They regard and treat all musicians as a morally “degenerate” group that needs to be silenced.

We believe our governments have failed to understand that the threat to musicians is wholesale and indiscriminate; and that because of this, so far almost no musicians have been offered humanitarian protection outside Afghanistan. Nearly all are still there, under immediate threat to their survival.

All of these musicians embody a vision of Afghanistan’s future in which freedom of expression and ethnic harmony can flourish. We believe that the global public, and musical and creative arts communities across the world, would overwhelmingly support the resettlement of these unique and highly skilled musicians, offering them homes and opportunities to perform and teach their traditions.

The Portuguese government has led the way in offering sanctuary to 100 musicians of ANIM/Zohra Orchestra. But this is the tiniest tip of an enormous iceberg.

We call on the UN, EU, US, UK, and other national governments worldwide to offer urgent humanitarian visas to Afghanistan's musicians so that they — and their invaluable cultural heritage — are not lost for ever.

Dr Katherine Butler Schofield, Lead Coordinator, Campaign to Protect Afghanistan's Musicians

To find out more about the Campaign, visit

218 have signed. Let’s get to 500!