More than 100 students, alumni and faculty members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music have been flown out of Kabul on their way to Portugal, where the government has agreed to grant them asylum, the institute’s director said Monday.
They were on board a flight carrying 235 people out of Kabul’s international airport to Qatar on Sunday. It was the largest airlift of Afghan nationals since Taliban fighters seized Afghanistan in mid-August, two weeks before the U.S. and NATO withdrew their forces from the country after a 20-year military presence.
“You cannot imagine how happy I am. Yesterday I was crying for hours,” the school’s founder and director, Ahmad Sarmast, said from his home in Melbourne, Australia.
The musicians join tens of thousands of Afghans, including many from the country’s sports and arts scene, who have fled since August. Among the recent evacuees are Afghanistan’s female robotics team, known as the “Afghan Dreamers,” and a girls soccer team who resettled in Mexico and Portugal, respectively.