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Afghan artists who fled Taliban paint mural to say 'Thank you, Albania!'

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A group of Afghan artists evacuated after the Taliban takeover in their homeland painted a mural in the Albanian capital to show their gratitude to Albania
A group of Afghan artists evacuated after the Taliban takeover in their homeland painted a mural in the Albanian capital to show their gratitude to Albania   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Theo Farrant  & AP

A group of Afghan artists evacuated after the Taliban came to power in their homeland painted a mural in the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Thursday to thank their host country and urge the world not to forget their brethren back home.

The mural was painted by members of Artlords, an Afghan organisation of volunteer artists, on a building in central Tirana, where scores of such works have been painted in recent years.

Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhaçka and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj both visited the mural Thursday, and they picked up a paintbrush to help out.

"Thank you, Albania! We shall not forget."

AP Photo
ArtLords are a group of Afghan artists using street art to promote messages of hope and peaceAP Photo

The work, near central Skanderbeg Square, showed an Albanian map composed of many sections, in a reference to Afghanistan's multiethnic character, and an Afghan man working.

"This is one of the ways that we want to raise the voices of our Afghans who are taken hostage back home in Afghanistan," said Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of Artlords.

Most of their works in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban, according to Sharifi.

Sixty-two Artlords members are still in Afghanistan, eager to leave it at any moment, he said.

"Stay safe and stay strong," was 28-year-old painter Yama Farhad's message for his colleagues still in the country.

Albania has sheltered some 2,400 Afghan evacuees in hotels or tourist resorts. Some 150 of them have already left for other countries.

Promoting a message of hope and peace

The rest will stay in the small Balkan country for about a year until authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere finish processing their special immigration visas.

The National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, a U.S. nonprofit foundation, has organised the evacuation of 288 Afghans to Albania and their temporary residence in the country.

"(It's) a piece of art from our Afghan friends, our Afghan partners, to thank the Albanian people, to thank the entire nation of Albania for their hospitality, their generosity," said Damon Wilson, NED's head.

Tirana City Hall has a track record in supporting artists to paint murals all over the city.

Check out the video above to see the mural being painted