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I am an Afghan academic (PHD) and musician (vocalist) and have been living in Weimar, Germany for the past six months. Before the entry of Taliban to Kabul in 2021, I was head of the Music Department, at the Faculty of Fine Art for Kabul University, the only academic organisation for bachelor and master degrees in all of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, right now the department is closed and no one can enter.

Leading the Music Department

I spent almost fifteen years serving the Music Department at Kabul University. After three years, I enrolled in Master’s and Ph.D. studies in India. After completing my Ph.D., I returned to Afghanistan and took on the responsibility of leading the Music Department for almost five years.

Our department had nine academic members (one foreigner guest lecturer from the USA and one technician), and around two hundred students including both men and women. The curriculum of this department was designed according to Western and Eastern (Hindustani/Afghani) classical music traditions.

The Music Department developed from a certificate course program to a degree level institution in 1980, but because of civil war (especially during the Mujahidin and Taliban Government) it was closed, and after the downfall of the Taliban Government, it reopened in 2002.

After studying the various curriculums of different international music Institutions, I prepared a new standard curriculum for our department, related to Eastern and Western music traditions with the collaboration of my senior and junior colleagues.

When I returned to Afghanistan in 2017 our Faculty MA program was only for visual arts, but by the encouragement and support of my colleagues, I developed the program to include performing arts (music), and so the course was renamed Visual and Performing Arts MA Program.

I also tried to introduce my department to the World Music art community, through Music Festivals, Symposiums and workshops. We participated in and were nominated for several national and international music festivals and symposiums.

I had dreams to promote my country’s culture through music

I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn music. I had big dreams and a passion to promote both my country’s culture and people through my art, but unfortunately with the return of the Taliban everything changed. The department closed, students were dispersed and the professors went into hiding.

I will never forget those dark and dangerous days.

On the second day of Taliban entry on August 16 2021, the security guard of the flat where I was living informed me that the Taliban were searching the apartments. I was particularly worried because there were some musical instruments in my flat and within ten minutes, I had destroyed them all which was very painful for me.

I’d meet with my colleagues and fellow professors, always in secret places, and we’d talk about the situation, sharing our impressions with each other. We were concerned about how to secure and save our lives, our future. Each of us had musical instruments in our houses which was very risky for us.

I was in contact with lots of foreign music institutions, communities and kind musicians to find a safe way for evacuation of my colleagues which was very important for me. But finally we got the opportunity to leave Afghanistan, one by one, through asylum visas for Germany. But my worries are not yet over, one of my colleagues, some students and many other musicians remain in Afghanistan and their lives are still in danger. Every day I think about them, hoping for a chance for their evacuation.

Living in Germany as a refugee

Living in Germany as a refugee is not easy, there are lots of challenges which I have to deal with. I am worried about my colleagues’ futures and professions; they are very talented musicians but it will be very difficult for them to find opportunities according to their profession.

After six months of living in Germany I was offered a chance to sign a contract with a music university in Berlin as a guest lecturer. However I am trying to find the opportunity to reestablish our department with my colleagues in Germany or maybe in some other European country, because whenever the situation in Afghanistan improves, I will be able to return home with my team and do something for our country.

"Whenever the situation in Afghanistan improves, I will be able to return home with my team and do something for our country". Image credit: Dr. Waheedullah Saghar. 

Telling stories through music

After the downfall of the Taliban government in 2001, we had only two professors, one of which had been in Islamabad in exile, the other had a non-musical position at another institution.

I remember an incident that I will never forget. Our professor, who was head of department at the time, invited us to a place where, with the help of some students, he had buried some musical instruments after the entry of Taliban in 1996. I took those buried instruments out with my classmates and we made full use of them for a long time.

Those instruments we saved and kept in our department storeroom as treasured antiques but after almost twenty years, history repeated itself. As the head of department, my colleagues and I discussed how we could enter the department premises and bury our own musical instruments for future music students. Even if I’m no longer around at the time of their discovery, I believe and hope that the future music generation of Afghanistan will find them, and use them to tell all our untold stories.

The MU is a proud supporter of the Campaign To Protect Afghanistan's Musicians (ICFAM). The campaign is an international coordination effort to protect all of Afghanistan's musicians in a time of crisis, along with their extraordinarily rich musical traditions, from the classical rabab to the latest pop music.

Photo ofDr Waheedullah Saghar
Thanks to

Dr Waheedullah Saghar

Associate Prof. Dr. Waheedullah Saghar former head of Music Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, Kabul University.

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