filmmaker flees Afghanistan | NHK WORLD-JAPAN News
Afghan director Sahraa Karimi is behind several films devoted to the life and rights of women. Her work earned her the post of president of Afghan Film, a state-owned production company. But his work came to an abrupt halt on August 15 when the Taliban took control of Kabul. Fearing for her life, she fled to Ukraine and now lives in Italy. Karimi spoke to NHK World about the decision and what lies ahead for her and her country.
You filmed yourself fleeing Afghanistan. What made you decide to go?
When I heard that the Taliban had entered Kabul, the immediate image before my eyes was that of my nieces. I was so scared for them because for the last four or five years, I educated them, I give them books to read. I always tell them that you are a liberal person, you are independent. I thought, whatever happens to me, the consequences will follow for them. Maybe the Taliban will kill me and they will kill them too. Maybe the Taliban are arresting me. They will also hurt my family. So, for that I decided, OK, I want to go out.
You probably didn’t have time to prepare.
I didn’t have time to pick up my things. I just had a few laptops, a few hard drives, and my college papers. It is not about dresses or some property. It is about your emotion, your feeling, what you have done for this country, your efforts, your dreams. And I think our efforts, our dreams and what we’ve accomplished are very, very heavy. We can’t just pack it up and take it with us.
Why did you upload your film to social media when you left the country?
I thought: does the world know about us what’s going on? We had a very bad experience with the Taliban in the past, between 1996 and 2001. They killed people and massacred people, they limited women. I immediately filmed myself and said via Instagram, I just thought the world should know. So I took my nieces, my brother and two of my assistants to the airport. We just left, we just left for the airport. Then I shared this video on Instagram.
What was Afghanistan like before the Taliban took over the nation?
There were still terrorist attacks. There were still a lot of struggles. But a lot of people, especially the younger generation, were doing a lot of good work. For example, in the last five or six years, we have made a lot of development, a lot of achievements concerning the education of women, the participation of women in social, political and economic life. And we also had political leaders, women political leaders and entrepreneurs. I myself became the first woman president of Afghan Film. Before, that was not possible. So life was changing in a positive way, you know, social life and cultural life.
Your films give a more nuanced vision of women than simple heroes or victims.
Between those two lines there are many other stories we should be telling, stories that are so universal. And I always wanted to tell those stories that no one, even in the media, covered. I think that cinema and the medium of cinema have this possibility to deepen the stories of women and to say more. Since childhood, my greatest role models have been women. These women who struggled, struggled with their limits and with a lot of problems in this world and especially in the patriarchal society.
Tell us about your decision to submit works to international film festivals.
As an Afghan filmmaker, my job is not limited to making films. My job is also awareness raising. I’m also a human rights activist, and I think that by showing these films to different people, especially big international platforms like film festivals, we are also showing other people around the world that the Problems Afghan women face are very universal. It is not just specifically for Afghan women. It can be universal, because some people think that a woman’s problem is just putting on the burqa or not. But that’s just a small problem, and there are many, many emotional, psychological and also economic and social issues that no one can see under the burqa.
What is your vision for the future?
I’m working on my new movie, because I don’t really believe in mourning, you know, being so sad because there is no time for sadness, there is time to fight, to become a voice, because it is no longer the case About me. In difficult times, in difficult situations, if you were saved, it meant you had some responsibility to others. If I was saved from this situation, I think it is my responsibility: to be the voice of many filmmakers in my country.
What do you expect from the international community?
You have been silent for the past few months when these miserable things have happened in Afghanistan, but please do not continue to be silent. The world shouldn’t. They shouldn’t easily recognize the Taliban. They should push the Taliban to accept certain conditions of a democratic society. If the Taliban want to be in power, they have to accept human rights, women’s rights, girls ‘rights to education, citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, to freedom of the press. The young generation is afraid of the Taliban, they do not accept the Taliban. But the Taliban should come to this conclusion: that they need the young generation, with young people who know banking, economics, politics and everything. So when they want the cooperation of the younger generation, they should give the younger generation freedom.