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Officials at the New York-based human rights organisation Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) say they have surpassed the target set for bringing Afghan artists to the US in the wake of the Taliban takeover in August last year. AFI provides pro bono legal assistance for artists at risk, with immigration lawyers working on a case-by-case basis.

Last year we reported that AFI was “racing against the clock” to get Afghan artists to safety in the wake of the Taliban insurgency, taking on extra volunteers and contract workers.

Following the US withdrawal, AFI pledged to provide “holistic relocation and resettlement assistance” to 18 Afghan artists and their families this year via the Afghan Artists Protection Project (AAPP). Crucially AFI is resettling 23 artists—including musicians and writers—and 38 family members in the US.

Ashley Tucker, the co-executive director of Artistic Freedom Initiative, says: “We have represented Afghan visual artists, filmmakers, theatre artists, musicians, writers, and architects. AFI has also represented cultural heritage workers, including curators, an archivist, an art conservator, a museum director, and an archaeologist.”

With funding from the New York-based Mellon Foundation, “the [initiative] enables Afghans to preserve their livelihoods as artists in the United States through individualised, paid year-long fellowships,” says a statement. Partner organisations providing placements include the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Tucker tells The Art Newspaper that these organisations are “truly invested in continuing to nurture the artists’ creative and professional development in the United States, and [are] working with AFI to think through the multi-faceted nature of the artists’ resettlement”.

Meanwhile, 47 Afghan artists and 121 family members have relocated to Germany through the Afghan Artists Protection Project’s Europe wing with backing from the New Jersey-based SDK Foundation for Human Dignity.

Artistic Freedom Initiative says in a statement that it expects the number of Afghan artists and families assisted by AAPP to increase over the next few months, as the need for immigration assistance continues. Tucker adds: “We continue to receive many requests for legal assistance every week [from artists in Afghanistan].”

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