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Dawit Isaak-Library of Freedom of Expression

Short Chat series 2021

The DI-Library Short Chat series focuses on discussions, interviews, and lectures with previous and current guest artists in the ICORN program. Our followers would have the unique opportunity to listen to diverse views on current global events as well as cultural projects each guest is working on.
Our guest this week is Mukhtar Wafayee. Mukhtar Wafayee is an Afghan award-winning investigative journalist, writer, and poet. Born in 1992 in the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan, Wafayee received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and has been working as a journalist since 2010. His journalistic work focuses on issues of security, politics, and governance.
From February 2019 to February 2021, Wafayee was the ICORN resident guest artist in Malmö’s fristadsprogram.
Jude Dibia: It’s so great to chat with you today, Mukhtar. Can you introduce yourself to the Dawit Isaak Library readers?
Mukhtar Wafayee: Thank you, Jude. I’m glad for this chat. My name is Mukhtar and I’m from Afghanistan. I am a journalist. As already mentioned, I came to Malmö in February 2019 as an ICORN guest writer, however, I am now a freelance journalist in Malmö.
JD: Thank you, Mukhtar for the brief introduction. I’m curious to know about how you felt the first time you arrived in Malmö. Can you take us back to your first time here in Sweden; the days, weeks, and months after you arrived? You came with your wife who was pregnant at the time, how was it for both of you?
MW: The first month was tough for us to engage with society, trying to settle in and adapt to the new environment and finding friends and a community to engage with, but it got easier. We had a lot of support from the culture department and from you and other friends who connected us to a great network of colleagues in my field as well as new acquaintances. And then we had our daughter, Flora. Everything changed for the better, but the first two months were difficult for us as we coped with the loss of our country and our home in Afghanistan. After enduring numerous death threats, we had to leave. It was very difficult to think hopefully about the future. But now everything is going perfect for us here in Malmö after the wonderful assistance we have received from the fristadsprogram, from you and from other network that we have in Malmö and we have lots of hope for the future.
JD: It’s great you’ve brought up the current period; can you tell us what it has been like to
be an independent artist now that you are no longer an ICORN guest? Are there any projects you’re working on or are you working fulltime?
MW: Actually, since the corona pandemic started, it has been a little difficult because I had a contract with a media house based in London and I lost that contract because of the corona pandemic and lost another one from a print media house in Afghanistan. Nowadays I’m trying to find other options and I freelance for a newspaper in Afghanistan as well as Swedish newspapers where I write about the Afghanistan situation, freedom of speech, women situations, and other topics. The corona pandemic has made things a little difficult, but I hope the situation would be better in a few months. It’s not that bad because in the two years that have passed since I was a guest of the city, I have received a lot of help and attended many workshops and I’ve been introduced to some network in Sweden, and I have a perfect network here in Malmö and for example I can mention colleague-to-colleague; it was a fantastic project that I was a member of. I’m trying to find more options for working as a freelancer or at least, I hope the situation in the world gets better in a few months and I can start again my project that was interrupted during the pandemic.
JD: Yes, Mukhtar, that is everyone’s wish as well. Now, what would you say has been the most impactful experience you’ve had in the last two years?
MW: I will have to say that among the top experiences I’ve had has been the opportunity to attend workshops in Sweden as well as other countries that were organised and managed by the ICORN network like I mentioned before, the colleague-to-colleague program was a perfect experience because I made friends with colleagues, some who are working with European media outfits in Europe for example newspapers in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and other parts of Europe. I met European translators and some writers who are working with literature. This was very useful for me and now I have these contacts and this experience and, in the future, if I have ideas that require certain skillset, I can always reach out to these people for assistance knowing that they would give me good advice and their experience.
JD: So, I know that during your two years as an ICORN resident writer, you won a grant from Kulturrådet for the publication of your book. Can you tell us a little about#kulturrådet?
MW: Oh yes, I forgot to mention that! Yes, I received a lot of support from kulturrådet and Malmö’s kulturförvaltning for my book. My publisher says the book is already with the printers after being delayed by the pandemic. I wrote about three subjects in that book. One of the subjects I tackled was the suffering of immigrants, African immigrants in Iran. I was one of those immigrants for about ten months. Another part of the book looks at my experience in a religious school. When I was about ten years old, my father enrolled me in a religious school because he wanted me to be a mullah in the future, a mullah is religious authority. I also wrote about my memories of the Iranian jails where I spent a few days. I wrote about the situation in the jails and camps and of the prisoners, Afghan immigrants who spoke to me about their life and experiences there. I am looking forward to the Swedish publication of my book and I am also looking for a publisher in Kabul for the Farsi edition of the book as well.
JD: Congratulations, Mukhtar. Can you tell us the title of your book?
MW: Thank you, Jude. In Swedish the title is Detta Blod Vittnar om Guds Vrede. And in English, it loosely translates to This Blood Testifies to the Wrath of God.
JD: What a powerful title, Mukhtar! And thank you for chatting with us at the Dawit Isaak Library book club. We look forward to speaking with you again soon.
MW: Thank you so much, Jude!





Source:
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