Kite-flying festival marks year since Taliban’s Afghanistan takeover

ITV News' Martha Fairlie speaks to Afghans about why the kite-flying festival represents freedom

Crowds gathered across the UK on Saturday to celebrate the Afghan craft of kite-flying through a multi-city festival, one year since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. In London, as well as other cities in the country and across the world, Afghan kite-flying, music, poetry and dance were showcased to show solidarity with the country’s people. The project came from Good Chance Theatre, creators of The Walk With Amal, in which a giant puppet of a child refugee walked from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester.

It was developed with master Afghan kite-maker and refugee Sanjar Qiam, who founded a toy shop in Brighton, and Afghanistan-born actor and director Elham Ehsas and Afghan musician Elaha Soroor.

Funds raised will go to Afghanaid and its By Her Side campaign to support women in rural Afghan communities. Among those who came to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath was Nawab Stanikzai, 53, a doctor from Jalalabad – alongside his three children Jawad, 15, Safina, eight, and Sana, three.

Two young girls dressed in tradition Afghan clothing play with kites on Parliament Hill, London Credit: PA

"We are flying kites because they banned kite-flying," Qjam says. "It's a tradition that connects people."

"The best way to communicate about your background and your culture and connect to others is through cultural activities."

Many cultural activities including music and artistic activities were banned when the Taliban took over Afghanistan last August.

Even kite-flying was banned by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule.

"By taking their culture you are taking their history," says musician Elaha Saroor, who left Kabul 10 years ago after being persecuted by the Taliban. "When they don't have history they don't exist."

"We believe it's a political tactic to remove people and to take that agency from them."

Elaha Saroor performs Afghan music for the Kite-flying crown at Parliament Hill, London Credit: PA

Thousands of Afghans made desperate attempts to flee Afghanistan last August, with some fleeing as refugees to the UK.

"This is all I am hoping for the future," says Amir Ibrahimi, one of the refugees who fled to the UK last year.

"That everyone can do whatever they want and they feel free."

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Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, co-artistic directors of Good Chance Theatre, said: “Kites remain attached to the ground through a single thread but fly free of the borders that define the land. “Kites are the embodiment of freedom and play." “But the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, kites were banned – along with music, free journalism, theatre and dancing." “That affront to freedom of expression is clearly being perpetuated again with the Taliban back in power. “Fly With Me is a reminder to the world: Remember Afghanistan.”