Kite-flying festival marks year since Taliban’s Afghanistan takeover

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in the UK to celebrate the Afghan art of kite-flying at a festival that took place across multiple cities. This was one year after the Taliban takeover.

In London, as well as other cities in the country and across the world, Afghan kite-flying, music, poetry and dance were showcased to show solidarity with the country’s people.

Good Chance Theatre, the creators of The Walk With Amal in which a puppet-sized child refugee ran from the Turkish–Syrian border to Manchester, was responsible for this project.

It was created with Sanjar Qiam (a master Afghan kitemaker who fled to Afghanistan) and Elham Ehsas (a director and actor from Afghanistan) and Elaha Soroor, a musician from Afghanistan.

Afghanaid will receive funds from the By Her Side campaign, which supports women in rural Afghan communities.

Kite flying festival on Hampstead HeathHasib Mohammad, 23, at the launch of Fly With Me on Hampstead Heath’s Parliament Hill (Claudia Rowan/PA)PA Wire/PA Images – Claudia Rowan

Among those who came to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath was Nawab Stanikzai, 53, a doctor from Jalalabad – alongside his three children Jawad, 15, Safina, eight, and Sana, three.

Mr Stanikzai came to the UK as a refugee with his family after the Taliban’s takeover last year, and is now living in Islington, north London.

He claimed that the country would fall. “terrible, like doomsday, but luckily we made it here”He also said that he wanted his children to experience the kite-flying, Afghan music and Parliament Hill.

Afghan-born actor Ehsas, who played young Assef in the 2007 film The Kite Runner and was involved in organising the event, said kite-flying – which has now been banned by the Taliban – is an integral part of Afghan culture.

Ehsas was 10 years old when he left Kabul and now resides in London. “We are here today to bring people together and celebrate Afghan tradition, Afghan culture, Afghan kites, and to remind the world that Afghanistan is still facing one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

“Even though the 24-hour news cycle has moved on, the country hasn’t.”

Kite flying festival on Parliament HillPeople fly their kites at the event to mark a year since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)PA Wire/PA Images – Kirsty O’Connor

“Afghans have been flying kites for over 800 years,”Ehsas agreed. “If you ever go to Kabul and you look up in the evening you see the pigeons and you see the kites… I used to play with kites when I was younger, my father grew up playing with kites.”

Anahita Shafai (25), a psychiatrist, arrived in the UK from Afghanistan at age five. “We want to show that we’re commemorating this, that we’re preserving our culture and our traditions… we can do this even with the Taliban there, they can’t suppress the Afghan people.”

Yusuf Mahmoud (47), a musician from Kharabat, Kabul’s musical quarter, was also present at the London event. He has been playing traditional Afghan music for over 200 years.

“I’m very happy be here, because since the Taliban have come again there’s no music in Afghanistan and nothing is allowed any more – it’s just to support the Afghan culture and especially music and musicians who are in the most devastating time of their life, because they’re without money and support for their families,”He stated.

Mahmoud performed Afghan music alongside his 14 year-old son Ariz (and 15-yearold nephew Roman) for the kite-flying crowds.

“We should always get together and work together and try to bring Afghanistan back to life,”He stated.

Hasib Mohammad (23), an actor and model, was teaching children how to fly kites during the festival. He said that he wanted people to have fun. “a taste of Afghan culture, because the way Afghanistan has been represented in the media for the past 30-40 years is not what Afghanistan is about”.

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson are co-artistic directors at Good Chance Theatre. “Kites remain attached to the ground through a single thread but fly free of the borders that define the land.

“Kites are the embodiment of freedom and play.

“Looked at collectively, on the stage of the sky, kites represent togetherness, our difference, and our shared humanity.

“But the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, kites were banned – along with music, free journalism, theatre and dancing.

“This simplest of devices of play and wonder, and gaming and competition, is also one of the most contested spaces in recent global history.

“That affront to freedom of expression is clearly being perpetuated again with the Taliban back in power.

“Fly With Me is a reminder to the world: Remember Afghanistan.”

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