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Foreign Affairs

Afghan Charlie Chaplin Overlooks Threats for People’s Happiness

Known as the Afghan Charlie Chaplin, an Afghan artist who mimics the iconic actor Charlie Chaplin says his goal is to provide moments of happiness for people and a break from the ongoing violence that has plagued Afghanistan for the past four decades.

Karim Asir, the 25-year-old Afghan artist, believes he is doing noble work by making people laugh.

My people are tired of war, and I am trying to create moments of joy and happiness to put a smile on their faces even if it is for a short period of time, Asir told VOA.

Because of his oversized shoes, baggy trousers, cane and black derby hat, Asir earned the nickname of the Afghan Charlie Chaplin among many Afghans. Most do not know his real name.

Asir primarily performs in Kabul, but he and his team travel to various parts of Afghanistan. Their eventual plan is to perform across the country even in volatile regions.

He told VOA that his dream is to see a peaceful Afghanistan where people would speak about love and compassion, not war and violence.

I wish to see many of artists like myself performing in Afghanistan and making people of my war-torn country laugh. I desire to see them laugh together and spread love among each other, Asir added.

How it started

Asir was born years after his parents migrated to Iran to escape the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Growing up a refugee child in Iran, Asir said Charlie Chaplin's movies were a source of entertainment for him and other children his age.

He said at the time he did not understand the great service that Chaplin was doing for millions of people around the world, but as he grew up he realized the importance of keeping people happy.

In his teenage years, Asir decided that one day he would mimic Chaplin in Afghanistan and make his people smile and spread the message of humanity.

Once the Taliban regime was overthrown by the U.S.-led coalition in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Asir and his family returned to Afghanistan and settled in capital, Kabul, where he found the opportunity to do what he wanted to do all along.

He started his artwork at Kabul University.

One day my professor at Kabul University told me not to walk like Charlie Chaplin. I asked him if my walking style was similar to Chaplin. He said yes it was. And it was then I told my professor that I have desired to follow in the footsteps, Asir said.

That's where my acting journey as the Afghan Charlie Chaplin began, Asir added.

Militant threats

The Afghan artist says he has been threatened several times by militants, but intimidation cannot stop him from putting a smile on people's faces.

Nothing can stop me from being an Afghan Charlie Chaplin or from trying to make my people laugh, he said.

One day, while performing in Kabul, our team was showered with stones. In another incident, our performance in one of the provinces was canceled after security forces warned us about a potential attack, he added.

But Asir did say, I am scared only for my audience's safety. I do not want them to get hurt while attending my stage shows.

The Afghan Charlie Chaplin wants all warring sides to end the ongoing violence in the country and make peace.

Charlie Chaplin says that life can be wonderful if you're not afraid of it. We are in need of humanity, happiness and amusement, not war and violence. Let's give each other the gift of laughter, instead of bullets, he said.

Source: Voice of America

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