Afghanistan, ravaged by war for almost three decades, has changed dramatically in the past couple of years. A serious economy, depleted funding from international donors, and the force of warlord-turned-secuerate-soldier Ghani Erakzai against President Ashraf Ghani’s increasingly secular government drove much of the nation’s economy back underground. The Taliban grabbed control of the countryside, creating a shrinking space for the small sector of relatively affluent Afghans with assets and financial means in the cities.
Now the Taliban is setting its sights on returning to areas previously controlled by government forces and compromising many of those most vulnerable to terrorists. According to Mohammad Hashim Tayab Agha, director general of the National Security Council and deputy head of the Ministry of the Interior, the terrorist organization is using Afghan art to mark its territory, which is why there is so much fear in the population. The Taliban has been using stone inscriptions proclaiming their loyalty to the group and warning locals that anyone who opposes their control will suffer terrible punishment.
Afghanistan was a center of Islamic sculpture and painting. for the better part of two centuries. Nearly a millennium before the Arab conquest, these street scenes and stained glass covered the architectures of Pashtun by Pashtun across the country. In fact, throughout history, Afghan artists have inspired in the West to create some of the world’s most beautiful works of art, including the Taj Mahal, among the world’s most iconic buildings.
This Sunday at 6 p.m., The Intelligence Squared Program is hosting a discussion about the fate of the Afghan art and its legacy. The first installment of the Islamic Art Show will explore the crimes of those wielding power over this artistic tradition and what the West can do to support the future of Afghanistan’s greatest asset—art.
The Intelligence Squared Program is a dramatic public forum where audiences are challenged to debate issues in popular politics and literature by questioning political and literary figures in front of a live audience, both experts and ordinary citizens. For more information, visit intelsquared.com.