Hordes of colourful kites soared into the sky over London in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan on the second anniversary of the fall of their homeland to the Taliban.
Participants said the event, at Primrose Hill in north London, was intended to demonstrate how “colourful” the culture of Afghanistan once was and to provide “a voice, far from our home” for all the Afghans, especially women and girls, living under the Taliban’s oppressive regime.
The kite-flying celebration was organised by the Good Chance theatre, which describes itself as “the theatre of hope” and put on a similar event last August across 15 cities in the UK as an “act of defiance”.
The event was organised by the Good Chance theatre, which put on a similar event last year. Photograph: Lucy North/PA
The art of making and flying kites using coloured tissue paper and bamboo sticks is a traditional part of Afghanistan culture but was denounced by the Taliban as un-Islamic and banned during their 1996-2001 rule.
This year’s gathering was smaller and more informal than the one organised last year, but was no less important, according to 24-year-old Afghan refugee Amir Hussain Ibrahimi, who works for the theatre.
“One of the more important parts of our Afghan culture is these amazing multi-coloured kites and we fly them, make them, design them since we were children,” he told the PA news agency.
The tradition is hundreds of years old and kite-flying is a common game in Afghanistan, he said, adding: “This is something that makes you really proud when you fly them because it is part of a hope for Afghan people.”
Kite-flying was banned by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule of Aghanistan. Photograph: Lucy North/PA
On the day the Taliban fled in 2001, kites returned to the skies of Afghanistan as a symbol of celebration. But now Ibrahimi said that the Taliban have once again banned kite-flying, along with many other joyful pastimes. “They banned the kites, they banned music, they want to remove women from society and they are trying to delete everything that doesn’t follow their rules,” he said.
The event was about ensuring the restrictions on women under the Taliban are not forgotten, he said.
“For women and girls we want to be a voice, far from our home,” Hussain Ibrahimi said. “We just want to show that Afghanistan was colourful, Afghanistan was full of nice culture, nice people, the girls who just want to improve themselves [through education], the women who were working with men shoulder-to-shoulder to improve their country.
The event was held to raise awareness of the restrictions women now face in their daily lives in Afghanistan. Photograph: Lucy North/PA
“And a lot of things have been lost and deleted, especially hope. The people of Afghanistan lost hope.”
On Instagram, the theatre posted a message inviting all of its followers to raise a kite into the sky in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan between 15 and 20 August, “wherever you are in the world”, and to share videos and photos of their efforts using the hashtag #Flywithme and #RememberAfghanistan.