Fly With Me is taking place in towns and cities across the country, including in Manchester, using a beloved tradition in Afghan culture to speak about the country’s plight.
Residents are being encouraged to make their own kite and head down to the events at Platt Fields Park on Saturday, and organisers are also highlighting how people in Greater Manchester can continue to help the people of Afghanistan.
Those putting on the event said they particularly want to raise awareness of the huge issues women and girls face as well as those still in hotels or temporary accommodation in the UK after they fled when the Afghan capital city Kabul fell.
What is the event in Manchester for Afghanistan and when is it?
Fly With Me in Manchester takes place on Saturday (20 August) from 2pm until 3pm in Platt Fields Park in the Fallowfield area of Manchester.
Participants are being asked to arrive from around 1.30pm and gather in front of Platt Hall in the north east corner of the park.
There will then be a reading of Afghan poetry and the organisers are also hoping to have Afghan musicians there. After that there will be a procession through the green space.
Everyone will then gather on the open grass area where the cricket pitch is to watch a demonstration of traditional Afghan kite flying done by people from the country.
Anyone who has brought a kite along will then be invited to join in and send it aloft for a mass flying demonstration.
In the run-up to the event the organisers have been working with local community groups and Afghan refugees in hotels and temporary accommodation to make kites for the event.
And a set of instructions to make a version of a traditional Afghan kite using materials easily available in Greater Manchester has been posted online here for anyone who wishes to make a kite and bring it on Saturday.
Why is the event being put on?
Fly With Me in Manchester is a partnership between the Manchester International Festival (MIF), arts hub HOME and Community Arts North West and has been devised by Good Chance Theatre, best known for the Walk With Amal project in which a giant puppet of a young Syrian girl walked across Europe to Manchester to highlight the plight of refugees from the Middle Eastern country which has been devastated by civil war.
Abir Tobji, MIF engagement manager, explained why they wanted to continue to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and girls, a year after the Taliban took over Kabul.
She also explained the significance of kites in Afghan culture and why kite-flying was thought to be a particularly appropriate way of drawing attention to the subject.
Abir said: “Kite flying is a very important cultural tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years in Afghanistan. It’s a very accessible artform, it doesn’t require much money so it’s one of the most popular activities to do.
“Every Afghan, regardless of age, has a very deep connection with kite flying. It’s also one of the many things that were banned when the Taliban took over the country.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of the situation for women and girls, because that’s the main problem now. Women and girls are barred from public life, they’re not allowed to go to secondary school, they have to be accompanied by men, they have to cover their faces.
“Kites are a very effective way of engaging with a western audience, because it’s something they can relate to and have fun with. Getting more artistic, kites also symbolise that ability to fly beyond borders. They have a lot of beautiful connotations.”
Along with Abir the Manchester event is being put together by two Fly With Me facilitators, Bushra Sultana and Hadisa Afzaly.
Hadisa, who is a writer now studying at Manchester Metropolitan University, is originally from Afghanistan and she remembered her feelings of horror watching the Taliban take over Kabul a year ago and shared her thoughts on the anniversary of events that shocked the world.
She said: “When first I heard that Taliban seized the country, I was in a complete shock and despair. I did not believe in one second that those barbaric people would be able to do such a thing.
“Today, the country is going through a horrible phase as the presence of Taliban has affected all but particularly the children and the women in my country.
“They keep promising the world that they will let the young girls attend school and that women will return to work. However, I am from Afghanistan and I am fully aware that none of it is true.
“I remember on 15 August 2021, when the colours in every Afghan life changed to black and white. It is still the case there.
“I am honoured that I had the opportunity to work with MIF and Good Chance on Fly With Me project which is organised in solidarity of the people of Afghanistan.
“Kite flying was banned in Afghanistan when Taliban took control of the country which symbolises hope, freedom, joy, love and peace.
“Through the simple act of making kites and flying them on 20 August, we will preserve the ancient art of Afghanistan and also show our support to the refugees who had to leave the home to get to live somewhere safe.”
What have the organisers of Fly With Me said about refugees from Afghanistan?
The Taliban resuming their rule in Afghanistan a year ago sparked shocking and chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport as refugees desperately tried to get out of the country.
A year on many of those who were airlifted to the UK have still not been given permanent accommodation and have not yet been able to begin to settle into their new lives in Britain.
The facilitators of Fly With Me say the Government needs to do more for them and also think again about moves to make it harder for people to flee to Britain and claim asylum, such as the controversial Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
Abir said: “The main aim of this is remembering the people of Afghanistan, both those in the UK and in Afghanistan, because both are still suffering.
“Many people who were brought here are still in temporary accommodation a year on, and are not able to kick off their new lives. You can imagine a whole family living in a hotel room for a year and how horrible that is.
“The Government needs to act urgently and fairly for those people who are still waiting for proper housing.
“These people need to be treated as other refugees are being treated, especially now with Ukraine. The openness and response to that crisis is something we want for refugees from all nations.
“There were also promises made to bring more people from Afghanistan and that didn’t go ahead, and there’s also the threat of refugees being deported to Rwanda and the anti-refugee laws being debated. Those could apply to Afghan people.”
Good Chance Theatre has posted three things it wants residents to do to support the Afghan people around the anniversary on its Instagram page here.
In response to recent media coverage highlighting the issues facing Afghan refugees still without homes of their own, the Home Office said it was working with around 350 local authorities to try to get people out of hotels as quickly as possible and councils were getting just over £20,000 per person on a three-year basis to assist with resettlement.
The Government has also repeatedly defended strongly the Nationality and Borders Act in the face of huge criticism from civil society groups, claiming an overhaul of the asylum system was necessary.