Afghan artists say 'no' to discrimination and racism with George Floyd tribute mural on blast wall

Reuters , Thursday 11 Jun 2020

(Photo: still from Reuters' video)

A group of artists climbed ladders up one of the many blast walls snaking through the Afghan capital Kabul this week to paint a mural of George Floyd in solidarity with the anti-racism protests kindled by his death in police custody.

Floyd, an African American, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him. Medical examiners ruled it a homicide and the officer was charged with second-degree murder.

“George Floyd is a global figure now and he was killed in the United States because of the blackness of his skin,” said Afghan artist Mehr Aqa Sultani, a member of local arts activist group ArtLords that painted the mural. “We want to say ‘no’ to discrimination because discrimination has no benefit for us.”

A video of Floyd’s death sparked protests around the United States and the world against racism and police brutality in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

ArtLords have a high-profile presence in Kabul, painting messages of social justice and peace on the many blast walls that have been erected to protect buildings from militant bombs.

Next to its mural of Floyd, the group painted a man with arms outstretched against the Iranian flag in reference to alleged abuses by Iranian police and border guards against Afghan migrants and refugees in recent months.

After walking past the mural, Kabul resident Dost Muhammad Momand said it had been painful to watch the video of Floyd’s death and that he identified with the constant fear of violence.

“When that helpless man wanted to escape death, the police did not release him and caused his death,” he said. “I also live in a country that has witnessed war for 40 years, a war in which discrimination exists.”

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