WASHINGTON – Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today released a statement after the last group of students and teachers from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and their families safely reached Qatar after escaping Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Since seizing the country in August, the Taliban have outlawed non-religious music andplaced restrictions and largely barred girls from attending school.
“Symbolizing women’s rights and freedom of expression, these young musicians represented the hope of a free Afghanistan,” said Dr. Cassidy. “The events they had to go through following the fall of Kabul are heartbreaking. We are grateful to Qatar, Portugal and everyone we worked with to get these children to safety.”
For months, Cassidy’s office has been involved in efforts to help the 272 young musicians, faculty, and staff escape to freedom. When the ANIM students were in busses waiting outside Hamid Karzai International Airport during the chaos of the mass evacuation, Cassidy attempted to get them through the gates. He worked to get messages to the commanders of the airport in an effort to gain entry for the students. After the airport was sealed off following a deadly ISIS attack, he advocated on the students’ behalf as paperwork issues became a problem and he worked with the Qatar government on multiple occasions to secure safe passage for the students.
Qatar was crucial in helping the group evacuate from Afghanistan. Additionally, Portugal offered the school refuge with official residency.