Friday, November 21, 2014

Historic First U.S. Tour by Ensembles of Afghanistan National Institute of Music Includes Concerts at Kennedy Center (Feb 7) and Carnegie Hall (Feb 12)

New York – The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) breaks new ground this winter, when leading ensembles of the institute – the nation’s sole music academy, founded and directed by Ahmad Sarmast, the first Afghan with a doctorate in music – make their American debut with a U.S. tour (Feb 2–17). Presented by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, of which ANIM is a model school, this landmark visit will be crowned by performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (Feb 7) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb 12). These concerts will feature the Afghan Youth Orchestra (AYO) and other ANIM ensembles performing orchestral and chamber music on both Western and traditional instruments; collaborations with their contemporaries from American youth orchestras; and guest appearances by award-winning Russian violinist Mikhail Simonyan. Additional tour highlights include a residency and concert at Boston’s New England Conservatory, master classes, school outreach concerts, and a wealth of further opportunities for cultural exchange.

At the upcoming Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall concerts, ANIM will be represented by the AYO, conducted by ANIM violin teacher William Harvey, and three smaller ensembles: the Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble, led by ANIM Principal and ghichak teacher Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh; the Sitar and Sarod Ensemble, led by ANIM sitar/sarod teacher Irfan Muhammad Khan; and the Chamber Wind Ensemble, led by ANIM brass teacher James Herzog. Joined by Afghan and expatriate faculty members, including percussion teacher Norma Ferreira, cello teacher Avery Waite, piano/oboe teacher Allegra Boggess, and saxophone teacher Derek Beckvold, the performers will be drawn from the institute’s students, who are Afghans between 10 and 21 years of age.

Besides demonstrating their mastery of the orchestral and keyboard instruments of the Western classical tradition, they will draw on their homeland’s own rich musical heritage, playing on traditional stringed instruments – the rubab, sitar, sarod, dilruba, tanbur, and ghichak – and the tabla drum. In a characteristic example of invaluable youth exchange, ANIM’s students will play alongside American string players of their own age, from the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras when they perform at the Kennedy Center, and from the Scarsdale High School Orchestra when they take the stage at Carnegie Hall.

Repertoire will include original arrangements by William Harvey of two favorites of the Western canon – Ravel’s Bolero and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – alongside examples of Afghan traditional and folk music. Mikhail Simonyan joins the students to perform Lariya for violin, rubab and chamber orchestra, Harvey’s arrangement of a traditional rubab piece made famous by the Afghan rubab virtuoso Muhammad Omar (1905-80).

Funded by the United States Embassy in Kabul, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, the tour will showcase the extraordinary success of ANIM. Founded by Ahmad Sarmast, winner of the 2009 David Chow Humanitarian Award for his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan, the remarkable school and its achievements have already attracted international notice. As the New York Times described in a recent feature,

“The Institute teaches some 150 young people, about half orphans and street hawkers. … About 35 of the students are female, important in a country where women face obstacles to education. The young people study both Western and Afghan instruments…and music theory from both cultures. Many of the Western instruments are donated, and the World Bank provides financial support. Tuition is free.”

In a country where, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “there are some 70,000 street children in Kabul alone and as many as 600,000 across Afghanistan,” it is of the most profound significance that half of ANIM’s students come from such disadvantaged backgrounds. Reuters observed:

“At Afghanistan’s sole music academy, students are taught music with the hope it will bring comfort in the face of war and poverty, bringing back cellos and violins to revive a rich musical legacy disrupted by decades of violence and suppression. ‘We are committed to build ruined lives through music, given its healing power,’ Ahmad Sarmast, head of ANIM, told Reuters.”

The impact of ANIM, which is seen as a model for future Afghan music schools, can hardly be overestimated. “An effective cultural barometer in the Muslim world,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, “music has the potential to move Afghan society away from fundamentalism toward more moderate cultural values.”

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Security Council Debate on a Comprehensive approach to Counter-Terrorism

 January 15th, 2013 by Afghan Mission

On Tuesday the 15th of January, the Security Council held an open debate on a comprehensive approach to counter-terrorism. Terrorism is a global threat to peace, security and stability in all parts of the world.  Given the complex challenge posed by terrorism throughout the world, United Nations Member States convened to express their views, experiences and ideas on how to tackle terrorism with a comprehensive, coordinated and consistent approach at the national, regional and international levels.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began the debate by addressing the Council, he called for a “focus on conditions that feed terrorism as part of a comprehensive strategy against the scourge.” The Secretary-General made it clear that, “no grievances can ever justify terrorism…and that there is a need for dialogue and understanding and the importance of information technology in countering the messages of hate and radicalization.” He also called on the international community by saying, “we have to drown out shrill appeals to intolerance and extremism with sound calls for compassion and moderation, we have to replace the terrorist narrative with messages of peace, development and human welfare.”

Following the Secretary-General’s remarks, Security Council members then expressed their countries counter-terrorism policies and approaches along with the comprehensive international tactics that have been effective and plans for going forward to counter the sophisticated and ever changing nature of terrorist threats. The open debate was chaired by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar of Pakistan, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of January.

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, delivered a statement on Afghanistan’s comprehensive approach to countering-terrorism and the affects that terrorism has had on the country.  “Afghans have lived with and suffered from terrorism for decades… the Afghanistan’s territory was used by Al-Qaeda and affiliate groups not only as a site for brutal attacks against the Afghan people, but as a staging ground for terrorist attacks around the world,” he said. Ambassador Tanin made it clear that since the fall of the Taliban, “Afghanistan has made important headway in its fight against terrorism, and in transforming into a more peaceful, stable, and democratic society.”

Throughout his statement, Ambassador Tanin touched on a range of topics; the serious threat that terrorism still poses on Afghan society, the current approach and strategy of the Afghan Government  to counter terrorist attacks, the importance of regional cooperation and coordination , and the important role that the Security Council and the United Nations have played in countering terrorism.

 The debate emphasized a needed focus on the important topic of counter-terrorism. Over 50 member states spoke at the debate, including high-level officials from a handful of countries showing the importance placed on this issue by the international community.

Comprehensive Approach to Counter Terrorism

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Security Council debate on

Comprehensive Approach to Counter Terrorism

Madame President,

I’d like to begin by congratulating you on Pakistan’s assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council, and also by expressing appreciation for convening today’s important meeting addressing an issue of special importance and relevance to my country, Afghanistan.

I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of the terrorist attacks which took place in Quetta and the Swat Valley, leaving more than 100 innocent people dead, and many more wounded. These horrific incidents reaffirm that terrorism is still a formidable threat. That is why we all must redouble our efforts to defeat this menace.

My delegation is pleased to know that the Security Council continues to give serious attention to the fight against terrorism. In May of last year, the Council held a high-level meeting on threats to international peace and security posed by terrorist acts. The outcome of that meeting underscored the changing nature of the terrorist threat, and the need for a strengthened global response in dealing with the problem. Today, more than ever before, the fight against terrorism is being conducted in a more result-oriented, balanced and integrated manner.

Madame President,

Afghanistan has lived with, and suffered from terrorism for more than two-decades. It wasn’t too long ago, when the Afghanistan’s territory was used by Al-Qaeda and affiliate groups not only as a site for brutal attacks against the Afghan people, but as a staging ground for terrorist attacks around the world. Over the past eleven years, since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan has made important headway in its fight against terrorism, and in transforming into a more peaceful, stable, and democratic society.

Despite progress made thus far, terrorism and insecurity remain serious challenges facing the Afghan people. The effects of terrorism are felt in the entirety of Afghan society, resulting from attacks on innocent civilians, including women and men, tribal and religious elders, members of civil society, and even young school children. Just last month, in another cowardly attack, a terrorist posing as a peace negotiator carried out a suicide bombing against our Chief of Intelligence, Mr. Asadullah Khaled. Gratefully, the assassination plot failed, and Mr. Khaled is now recovering successfully. Such acts will in no way weaken the determination of Afghans to defeat terrorism and succeed in their journey for peace and prosperity.

Our comprehensive counter-terrorism approach, central to our national security strategy, is being carried out by our national security institutions.  At the operational level, scores of terrorists and enemy combatants have been captured and brought to justice. Through intelligence gathering, we have subverted hundreds of terrorist plots in various parts of the country. Operating with increased capability, our security forces are increasingly taking charge of combat operations nationwide, including in counter-terrorism operations.

Madame President,

Insecurity and terrorism are not only a threat for Afghanistan, but for our wider region, which we hope will be dealt with fully and effectively, within the framework of our joint efforts with regional partner countries.

We, therefore, cannot overstate the importance of regional cooperation. Over the past year, we have escalated efforts to defeat terrorism, improve security and ensure prosperity in our part of the world. To this effect, we are making important progress through bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral mechanisms, as well as through regional efforts such as the “Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan.”

With Pakistan we have enhanced our cooperation in a number of areas, including counter-terrorism efforts in order to bring lasting peace, security and stability to both our countries.

Consistent with our struggle against terrorism, we attach high importance to the body of legal instruments concerning this problem. Afghanistan is party to 13 international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols. In this regard, relevant ministries and governmental agencies are working closely towards implementation of national legislation. I would be remiss in failing to praise the important work being done by the counter-terrorism subsidiary bodies of the Security Council – the 1267/1989, 1373 and 1540 committees, respectively.  Afghanistan has, and will continue to present national reports in regards to implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.

Madame President,

The role of the UN lies at the core of an effective fight against terrorism. The 3rd biennial review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, conducted last June in the General Assembly, marks another milestone in strengthening the UN’s counter-terrorism efforts and has generated new impetus in the efforts of States against the global threat. Furthermore, we believe greater synergy and coordination among the relevant UN bodies and agencies will enable our organization to enhance cooperation, internationally and regionally, as efficiently as possible. In this regard, we look forward to further discussions on the topic of the appointment of a UN counter-terrorism coordinator.

We also commend the important work being done by the counter-terrorism implementation task force (CTITF). Through various initiatives, such as workshops in different regions, including Central Asia, the task-force is playing an important role in helping States build their counter-terrorism capacities. Another important development was the creation of the UN counter-terrorism center in November of last year. We are confident the center will go a long way in enhancing coordination efforts.

Madame President,

The global counter-terrorism strategy underscores a holistic approach in the fight against terrorism. Our success is dependent on the extent to which we are able to further progress in a number of areas. The dangerous link between terrorism and transnational organized crime must be broken. The problem of terrorist safe-havens, alongside the outstanding issue of financial and logistical resources made available to terrorists have yet to be resolved.  These are real problems that require real solutions. Moreover, we believe that conflict prevention and resolution are essential facets of the counter-terrorism effort; the UN’s role is of particular importance in this regard.

Additionally, ensuring job opportunities for youth, and poverty eradication will help curtail recruitment of new individuals to terrorist networks. We highlight, in this connection, the activities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in promoting development for all.  It goes without saying that terrorism is a common enemy, which doesn’t discriminate against any particular religion, nationality or culture. Everyone is a target. We call for increased measures to strengthen inter-religious and cultural-dialogue and understanding.

Madame President,

In conclusion, I would like to underscore Afghanistan’s long-standing commitment to the fight against international terrorism. As a prime victim against this threat, we are well aware of the devastating effects which it brings upon societies. Yet, we are also well aware of the progress that can be made in this regard through joint and concerted efforts. We value greatly the support of our international partners over the past eleven years in our struggle against this global threat, and look forward to our continuing partnership with the international community on the way forward.

I thank you.