As yet another generation of Afghans fled their homeland over the past fortnight, one song has resonated as a poignant anthem for the exodus.
My Homeland – Sarzamin i Man in Farsi – was written in 1998 by the singer Dawood Sarkhosh, who himself had to leave Afghanistan in the civil war that erupted following the Soviet withdrawal.
In recent days My Homeland has been played by people boarding evacuation flights at Kabul airport, and by newly arrived Afghan refugees in Tehran, Stockholm, London and Toronto, as well as on smuggling routes across the Pakistani desert.
“I have become homeless,” the lyrics go. “I have moved from one home to another / Without you, I have always been shoulder to shoulder with sorrow … My homeland, my only love, my existence … I can’t live anywhere but in you / They stole your treasures to enrich themselves / Everyone in turn has broken your heart.”
The song has come to evoke the loss felt by many for a country they may not see again.
The singer Sharafat Parwani, a star of prime-time TV shows in Afghanistan, was filmed singing My Homeland in a refugee camp after leaving the country in a clip widely shared on social media.
In another clip, three girls sing on the runway of Kabul airport, while waiting for their evacuation flight. Afghans in exile around the world have filmed themselves singing it in protest against the Taliban.
In Iran, where more than 7,000 Afghans a day are heading, the song is being recorded and performed by well-known vocalists to express their sympathy and sorrow.
Sarkhosh, who now lives in Pakistan, said in an interview that the popularity of the song was because “I was also a person who had suffered from war”.
When the Taliban last governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the radical form of Sharia law enforced meant music was banned.
“I had seen the damages of war when I was a child,” said Sarkhosh, whose elder brother Sarwar was killed in fighting between rival Afghan warlords. “I was myself also a refugee, and of course it affected the song.”
The song has found a new audience of exiles. “When Kabul fell and I saw Taliban roaming in my city, I cried all night listening to this same song,” said Hassan Anwari, an Afghan student in India. “We, the Afghans, gather here sometimes and we sing it together. We cry, and we sing it.
“Crying is the only thing we can do for our country now. We have come here to study and hoped to go back, but now we don’t know. Believe me, some are thinking about suicide. We feel stateless. We don’t know where to go after our studies.”
One Afghan who reached Iran, said everyone he met was listening to the song. “We walked for more than four hours and I was hearing it all the way because many people were listening to it on their phones,” said the man, who asked not to be named.
“I cried several times looking at this flood of people and hearing this song,” he said. “I came to Iran to be able work and because I couldn’t live under Taliban rule, but here even Iranians are struggling – let alone me as an Afghan.”