Afghanistan National Institute of Music’s founding director Ahmad Naser Sarmast will be honored for his work
Founded by UNESCO in 1949, the International Music Council (IMC) is the world’s largest network of music organizations and institutions that works on the advancement of essential music rights for all people.
Selected by the IMC, Ahmad Naser Sarmast, founding director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), is recognized for his work on the Five Music Rights — expression, learning, access, development, and recognition. These values serve as a guide to IMC’s work plus that of over 1000 music organizations in 150 countries in its broader network.
Sarmast joins luminaries of the title including Cambodia’s Arn Chorn-Pond, Egypt’s Ramy Essam, the UK’s Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Kenya’s Tabu Osusa. Alongside his nomination, the IMC also released a formal statement demanding music rights be restored in Afghanistan.
“The international music community condemns the cultural and musical genocide in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s unrelenting suppression and violation of the Five Music Rights of the Afghan people as upheld by the [IMC],” reads part of the statement. “We call on all who love music to raise our collective voices against this systematic destruction and erasure of musical life in the Afghan society.”
“In such a tragic moment in the history of contemporary Afghanistan when an entire nation is forced into silence, […] this nomination is extremely important,” Sarmast said. “It is the recognition of the struggle of Afghan people for their music rights.”
“We are honored that Dr. Sarmast has agreed to serve as a Five Music Rights Champion,” added IMC President Alfons Karabuda. “IMC and ANIM have a long history of common objectives since at least 2009, when the project Revival of Music Education in Afghanistan was among the laureates of the very first edition of the Music Rights Awards. [Sarmast] incarnates perfectly the Five Music Rights and is an example for all of us.”
Founded in 2010 by Sarmast, ANIM — a 2018 Polar Music Prize laureate — became Afghanistan’s first and only music school, giving Afghan children rare opportunities to study both Western and Afghan music as well as receive a general education.
When the Taliban occupation impacted schools across the nation, as well as girls’ secondary education and music itself, the ANIM community — including the acclaimed all-female ZohraOrchestra — was forced to escape, reaching Lisbon in December 2021.
A video featuring Sarmast can be viewed below.