TORONTO — Afghan artist Omar Sharifi had to abandon friends and his home after he fled Afghanistan five days ago, and is in mourning over those still in the country.
Five days ago, Sharifi, the artist who co-founded the Artlords project, was one of the fortunate Afghans who managed to flee the country. He’s now a refugee in Abu Dhabi, and although he’s relieved that he’s safe, he’s deeply mourning the loss of his home and plight of his people.
“I don’t know if I have to be happy or have to be sad,” Sharifi told CTV News Channel on Thursday. He said he has been unable to sleep properly for days, and has been in tears watching the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan.
“Every single bone, every single hair in my body screams — screams of the pains and sufferings we went through,” he said, adding that he can’t stop thinking about the “people that were left behind and the massacre that’s happening right now.”
Many groups have fled because they believe their lives are especially at risk under Taliban rule, including women and girls, members of non-Muslim faiths, ethnic minorities, and those who worked with Western forces.
Sharifi said that the Taliban have also been telling artists that they would be under scrutiny and needed to change their profession. So he felt it was safer to flee rather than stay.
“I saw beatings, I saw firings [of guns], I saw so much bloodshed and people dying in the those conditions,” he said, adding that Taliban soldiers eventually let him into one of the gates. But at that moment, hundreds of others began rushing in too.
“The other [Talban] soldiers were really afraid and they tried to shoot me,” he recalled. “I just left my bag and ran away because I didn’t want to get shot.”
‘THE WAR NEVER ENDS’
Afghanistan has been in a state of unrest for decades, with Sharifi pointing out that his people “have been suffering for a very long time.”
Be it the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, or the Taliban rule before 2001, or the last 20 years of Western intervention, Sharifi said his people have had little reprieve from bloodshed. He said that many who have left Afghanistan in recent weeks are now without homes.
Sharifi implores the world not to turn away from helping refugees.
And he urges the global community to still remember those who remain in Afghanistan in the coming months and years — people who could well be caught in the crossfire of fighting between the Taliban and, Islamic State — Khorasan Province, an emerging affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group.
“The war never ends,” Sharifi said. “I was born in the war, I’ve lived in the war, I’ve been working in the war. I’ve lost members of my family… we have lost so much.”
“We cannot take it anymore.”