Twenty Years graphic

Twenty Years in Afghanistan


بیست سالشل کاله

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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 launched 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 launched in 2022 with an exhibition of Afghan artists in Australia, Afghanistan and the Diaspora at Blacktown Arts gallery in Sydney, Australia. The featured artists were Khadim Ali, Elyas Alavi, Orna Kazimi and Najiba Noori, Tia Kass and Antony Loewenstein. The show was curated by Antony Loewenstein and artist Alana Hunt with curatorial advice by Nur Shkembi.

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


Documentation by Jennifer Leahy.

Contributing Artists


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.”