Sidelined young Afghans pen 'letters of pain' as war rages

  • Sunday 08, September 2019 07:11 AM
  • Sidelined young Afghans pen 'letters of pain' as war rages
Sharjah24 – AFP: Omaid Sharifi, who heads a Kabul-based art collective, sits in his studio and leafs through a stack of dozens of hand-written letters, reading out sentences at random.
A line in one missive, written in Dari and spelled out in huge letters, states simply: "We want peace," Sharifi says.

"By peace, they just mean a ceasefire, just stop this nonsense violence," he explains.

The letters are the fruit of a recent initiative by ArtLords, a not-for-profit group that Sharifi co-founded and runs, which aims to give a voice to young Afghans who feel ignored and powerless as the war rages on.

In a pilot project in Kabul, where more than 30 people were killed by blasts in the past week, ArtLords is building on the Afghan tradition of penning "dard-e-dil" -- letters of pain.

The scheme allows people living in an ultra-conservative society to find freedom by sharing their passions and emotions in written form.

Sharifi and his team have placed six large wooden letter boxes -- painted white and decorated with love hearts -- in high schools, universities and cafes around the Afghan capital and invited people to share their stories.

"Whenever you want to share your deep thoughts, you write letters," Sharifi says.

"So we asked the youngsters to write letters about their fears, about their solutions, about their hopes."

Within the first two weeks of the project, they had more than 300 letters, Sharifi says.

He reads from another, this one addressed to the Kabul government.

"'We are in a very bad situation,'" he quotes.

"'We need your attention because every single day we are dying from the fear of explosions and the fear that I might die today -- in the car, in the office, in the university...' He says nowhere is safe."