Tom Morello backs campaign to help female guitar students leave Afghanistan

The Rage Against the Machine guitarist says the girls, who are currently in hiding, face great danger for playing western music

RESIZED. LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 03:  Recording artists Chuck D, B-Real and Tom Morello of Prophets of Rage perform onstage at Hollywood Palladium on June 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello is seeking to help a group of young female guitarists leave Afghanistan.

Morello wrote an open letter saying that the 12 girls, who are members of Kabul music school Girl With a Guitar, have been in hiding since the Taliban takeover. Their ages range from 4 to 19.

“I’m writing on behalf of some very special girls in Afghanistan who are in grave danger,” Morello says in the letter.

“[Girl With a Guitar] takes in street orphans and other girls that have endured significant trauma and uses music as a rehabilitation tool and means of working through their problems, their histories and their hopes. I’ve had the honour of collaborating with these wonderful kids.

"Since the Taliban takeover their school has been destroyed and the girls are in hiding. They are at extreme risk because they are widely known to have performed western music and have been educated by a male American teacher. Anything you could do to help save their lives would be much appreciated.”

Morello’s letter was sent to Billboard by fellow guitarist and founder of Girl With a Guitar, Lanny Cordola.

The House of Lords musician founded the school in Kabul in 2015. The school is part of Cordola’s non-profit organisation, The Miraculous Love Kids, and began after the guitarist met a girl aged 8 who survived an attack by a Taliban suicide bomber.

”I brought a guitar with me and, basically, she just jumped right into the heart here," Cordola said. The girl then asked Cordola to teach her how to play the instrument.

"When an 8-year-old war-torn Afghan girl who just lost her two sisters asks you to be their guitar teacher, you can't say no to that."

Hundreds of girls have studied at the school, collaborating remotely with rock stars including Nick Cave, Sammy Hagar and Brian Wilson. Besides music, the girls also learn English and everyday skills, and receive a stipend.

Cordola had travelled to the US to get his visa renewed when the Taliban took over Kabul last month. He is currently in Pakistan, working to find a way to help the girls and their families leave the country.

"These are my little babies," Cordola told CBS News on Tuesday. "We always talk about staying calm but, inside, I'm freaking out ... I kind of vacillate between sadness and outrage and shock.”

Cordola said his students, with whom he speaks daily, are having a “hard time grasping” the situation.

"They tell me that every night there's been gunfights between one and four o'clock in the morning,” he said.

In an interview with Billboard, Cordola said he had tried to find a flight out of Afghanistan for the girls a few days ago, but had failed. He is now looking to find a way to bring them to the Pakistan border.

“We’ve been talking to a lot of different people, rescue organisations. We need to get them out of Afghanistan to start a new life somewhere.”

Cordola says failing to get the girls out “is not an option”.

Quoting the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, I Won’t Back Down, Cordola said he’d “stand at the gates of hell and won't back down until we get all these girls out".

He also revealed he had asked his students to destroy the guitars, which were donated by 24 star Kiefer Sutherland. The school’s co-ordinator insisted on storing them on the now-closed premises, as it could arouse suspicion if the Taliban came across any broken pieces.

The co-ordinator, whose name has been withheld for safety reasons, said the school’s most senior pupils are in particular danger.

“Our school is closed … as girls playing western music with our American male teacher, we could not be at greater risk."

Updated: September 2nd 2021, 10:13 AM
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