Twenty Years graphic

Twenty Years in Afghanistan


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Twenty Years is an artistic and journalistic project to assess the legacy of the post 9/11, US-led war in Afghanistan.

Originally conceived in 2019 by journalist, author and film-maker Antony Loewenstein and artist Tia Kass alongside Afghans in Australia, Afghanistan and the Diaspora, Twenty Years is a multi-platform examination of the war and its aftermath after 20 years of conflict. We focus on the role played by Australia and other Western powers in invading and occupying Afghanistan and the consequences of these actions on Islamophobia and media coverage.

Featuring video, audio, portraits, text, photography, journalism, public events and art exhibition, the project aims to interrogate the reasons behind the conflict, who lost and gained, the impact on Afghan civilians and the legacy of the longest war in US history after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

A key aim of Twenty Years is centering Afghan voices and their stories which are routinely ignored in the mainstream media in favour of pro-war pundits, military generals and politicians. By working with Afghan civilians, refugees, activists, artists and advocates, the project will show an Afghanistan that rarely breaks into the public consciousness.

Phase one of the project launches in October 2021 with public events featuring Afghans in Australia and globally discussing the war and new artwork and journalism on civilians affected by the conflict.

Phase two launches in 2022 with an exhibition of Afghan artists in Australia, Afghanistan and the Diaspora at Blacktown Arts gallery in Sydney, Australia. The featured artists are Khadim Ali, Elyas Alavi, Orna Kazimi and Najiba Noori, Tia Kass and Antony Loewenstein. Alongside the exhibition will be a program of public events to discuss the Afghan war.

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Antony Loewenstein, the drive between Kabul and Sarobi (2012)


Bringing together powerful and diverse Afghan voices, Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan explores the legacy of war and the future of Afghanistan through the eyes of artists and journalists.

The exhibition at Blacktown Arts features internationally renowned artist and Blacktown resident, Khadim Ali, and new multimedia artworks by Afghan-Australian artist, Elyas Alavi. Melbourne-based street-artist Tia Kasambalis’ drawings are a series of portraits of people connected to the Afghan War both in Australia and Afghanistan. London-based Afghan artist, Orna Kazimi, presents a striking animation and a free zine that visitors can take home.

Afghan photo-journalist, Najiba Noori, shares a series of images capturing the complex ebbs and flows of life, death and migration in recent years. Journalist Antony Loewenstein shares behind the scenes clips from his documentary and journalistic work as well as photos from his visits to Afghanistan. A specially commissioned short film commenting on the legacy of the war has been made by two, anonymous female Afghan-Australian artists.

The exhibition has been curated by Antony Loewenstein and Alana Hunt with curatorial advice from Nur Shkembi. The program of talks and gatherings has been curated and produced by Maryam Zahid, Director of Afghan Women on the Move. Maryam invites visitors to enjoy Afghan tea and sweets during these public events.

Exhibiting Artists


panelLegacy of the War
11 Aug. 2022



Legacy of the War
11 Aug. 2022, 6:30 PM

This panel at the Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre will discuss the legacy of the conflict and the present reality in Afghanistan.

Speakers: Lala Pordeli, Nematullah Bizhan and Antony Lowenstein, led by Maryam Zahid

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screeningThe Afghan Cameleers in Australia
13 Aug. 2022 , 2:00 PM



The Afghan Cameleers in Australia
13 Aug. 2022, 2:00 PM

Still from ‘The Afghan Cameleers in Australia’

Directed by Fahim Hashimy, The Afghan Cameleers in Australia is a documentary film that explores the relationships formed between the Afghan cameleers who were brought to Australia in the 1860s and local Indigenous women. A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Speaking on the evening will be Omid Nezami (singer and TV presenter), Hasibaa Ebrahimi (actor), and Fahim Hashimy director of The Afghan Cameleers in Australia. There will be a Q&A for audience members following the screening followed by a traditional Afghan tea corner, offering tea and sweets.

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discussionA year after Twenty Years
24 Aug. 2022 , 6:30 PM



A year after Twenty Years
24 Aug. 2022, 6:30 PM

Najiba Noori, Afghan Men in a Bridal Shop, Kabul – Collection, courtesy and © the artist

Presented by Diversity Arts Australia.
While looking towards the future, this panel reflects on the year that’s followed the US-led withdrawal of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, considering what it means for those in Afghanistan and Australia.

Speakers: Diana Sayed, David McBride, Elyas Alavi and Maryam Zahid.

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discussionFuture: possibilities and responsibilities
03 Sep. 2022 , 2:00 PM



Future: possibilities and responsibilities
03 Sep. 2022,

Antony Loewenstein, Afghanistan’s last remaining Jew, courtesy and © the artist

The panel discussion opens up space to think about what Afghanistan’s future could be under the Taliban and what role or relationship Australia could have with the country following its military withdrawal in 2021.

Speakers: Abdullah Alikhil, Farah Altaf Atahee and Elyas Alavi, led by Maryam Zahid.

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discussion20 years of the Afghan War
07–08 Oct. 2021



20 years of the Afghan War
07–08 Oct. 2021,

Antony Lowenstein, ‘Inside Darul Aman Palace, Kabul’ (2015)

Diana Sayed, Mahmood Fazal, Orna Kazimi, Najiba Noori, Elyas Alavi, Antony Loewenstein, Taqi Khan and a newly commissioned short film by three female Afghan-Australians on the legacy of the Afghan war.


20 years: The Words that
Shaped the War in Afghanistan
Dec. 2021 (Details)

We commissioned female Afghan-Australian artists to make a short film on the themes of the Twenty Years project. This is their statement:

“The fall of Kabul in 2021 was the result of the Taliban forcibly taking power while the international community, who once branded their occupation of Afghanistan as ‘liberation’, isolated the very people they claimed to be saving.

“Swept up by the 24-hour news cycle, Australia rode the wave of distraction to distance itself from its own history of war crimes and failures in Afghanistan.

“Failing to act as the watchdogs on democracy, mainstream media aided in this distraction. The Australian media used the devastation in Afghanistan as an opportunity to erase its own complicity.

“In 2001, the mainstream media helped gain support for the war by centralising the opinions that dehumanised Afghans, discredited their culture and depicted the country as a threat to the West. As the war morphed into an endless occupation, the media continued its backing by failing to report on the complexity of the situation and diminishing the Western-led violence with no consequences.

“As Australia continues to take no accountability for its part in the 20-year Afghan war, the alienation felt by the Afghan diaspora deepens. Once again, the Afghan-Australian population is pushed into unquestioning assimilation.

“Afghan-Australian voices are afraid to stand on platforms out of fear of the consequences of being heard. Those who spoke out, even with restrained anger, are deemed ‘ungrateful,’ and in some instances had their lives threatened. Protestors are asked to applaud the Western governments that failed Afghanistan. The Afghan-Australian diaspora polices itself, worried that any expression of frustration or hurt will cause trouble for its community, create issues for family still unsafe in Afghanistan, or hinder the visa application for refugees unlawfully locked-up in Australian detention centres.

“For these reasons, we have chosen to stay anonymous as two Afghan-Australian female artists. Because as the rest of the world chooses to forget Afghanistan, its people are forced to live with the violence while silencing their hurt and anger. This work is not to champion a particular ideology or power; it’s a request for Australia to take responsibility for the violence it helped create and for Afghans to be given the right to grieve their loss and trauma.”