Riz Ahmed to Emma Watson: A-list stars make 'safe passage plea' for Afghan performers

In a letter to 'The Times', dozens of creative professionals called on British ministers to rescue Afghanistan’s artists and performers

From left: Riz Ahmed, Emma Watson and Elif Shafak were among those to sign an open letter demanding the British government offer safe passage to Afghan performers. Reuters, EPA, Alamy
Powered by automated translation

Riz Ahmed, Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Colin Firth and Elif Shafak are among the A-list names calling on British ministers to rescue Afghanistan's creative professionals.

The group, which also included Stephen Fry and Sam Mendes, wrote a letter to The Times on Saturday titled "safe passage plea for Afghan performers", demanding that the British government open a "humanitarian corridor" to help artists, writers and filmmakers escape the country, which has been taken over by the Taliban.

"Over the past two decades, civil society has flourished in Afghanistan with new freedoms ushering in a golden age of art, music, film and writing," the letter begins. "At the same time, political dissent and journalism have thrived in a region where free expression is not always respected."

This legacy, the group writes, is now in "imminent peril". "We now have a duty to those artists, writers and filmmakers who will be silenced if we do not act immediately."

The letter urges the British government to "co-operate with the international community to create a humanitarian corridor" for those looking to escape.

"We also call on those in positions of influence in the creative industries to help those who have escaped to continue their vital work and safeguard the culture of Afghanistan for future generations."

The letter was instigated by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Golden Globe-winning Afghan director Siddiq Barmak (Osama), both of whom reside in the UK, according to the publication.

The Index on Censorship, an organisation for the freedom of expression, and non-profit theatre company Good Chance Theatre said they organised the letter.

Other signatories include playwrights Tom Stoppard and David Hare, writer and broadcaster Trevor Phillips, as well as actors Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Imelda Staunton and Hugh Bonneville.

A number of Afghan-born professionals who live in the UK signed, too, including director Atiq Rahimi, poet Parwana Fayyaz, writer Shabibi Shah, cinematographer Jawed Taiman and writer Zarlasht Halaimzai, who is also co-founder of the Refugee Trauma Initiative.

Several British-Iranian talents are also named, such as artist Majid Adin, producer and director Zoe Neirizi, writer Nasrin Parvaz and poet Shirin Razavian.

This comes weeks after it was reported that the Taliban banned music in public across Afghanistan, and that Afghan folk singer Fawad Andarabi was killed in the village of Kishaan.

Updated: September 12, 2021, 7:14 AM