Every night, after putting his 2-year-old son to bed, Muhajir sits down in the corner of his family’s small room in a refugee centre in Albania and starts writing in a notebook.

For months he has been documenting his family’s experiences – from their life in Afghanistan to when they fled the country after the Taliban seized power in August. He plans to give the notebook to his children when they are older.

“I write about what we had built, what we lost, and our life in exile. Our children must not forget what we’re going through now,” said the Afghan artist, 28, who gave his name as Muhajir, the Farsi word for refugee.

“For generations Afghans have lived as refugees in this unending conflict. Being a muhajir has become part of our identity; it is now a part of my identity,” he told The National.


Among those who sought to escape Afghanistan after the country fell to the insurgents were artists like Muhajir. He worked with an art collective known as the ArtLords – their name is a pun on the warlords who have long been associated with the Afghan conflict.

Muhajir and the collective used art to promote freedom and rights, particularly those of women. Many of these rights have now been stripped away, victims of the Taliban’s extremist ideology.

ArtLords became known for painting hundreds of murals on the thick blast walls that are a common sight across Kabul and the rest of the country.

“What we were doing was a mix of art and activism. It was the first such initiative undertaken in Afghanistan,” Muhajir said. “The stories that we told, the pictures that we created came from the depths of the society that had been deeply impacted by war.”

The mural calls on Afghans not to forget their brethren. Photo: AP
The mural calls on Afghans not to forget their brethren. Photo: AP

When Kabul fell, the group was preparing for an exhibition in the UAE.

“I had my passport and visa. I was very excited as it would have been my first trip out of Afghanistan. But we lost everything when the Taliban came, and I was evacuated to Abu Dhabi as a refugee, instead of the artist I was supposed to visit as,” he said.

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