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George Floyd mural painted near Kabul’s Green Zone

A person walks past a mural near the fortified Green Zone in Kabul on Monday, June 15, 2020, dedicated to George Floyd and three Afghan migrants who died in Iran.

PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 15, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — On a concrete blast wall topped with barbed wire near Kabul’s Green Zone, Afghan artists have painted a large mural depicting George Floyd next to an image dedicated to Afghan migrants who recently died in Iran.

The mural was painted to condemn global racism and connect the stories of Floyd and the migrants, who Afghans say are persecuted and abused in Iran and elsewhere, said Omar Ghani, a project manager with the ArtLords group, which painted the mural.

“Racism is all over the world and we need to denounce it,” he said.

Under the portrait of Floyd are the words “I can’t breathe” in English, which the 46-year-old African American said repeatedly as a white police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes, until Floyd died on a street in Minneapolis three weeks ago.

His killing was caught on cellphone video and has been replayed repeatedly on the internet and nightly news broadcasts, leading to protests and vigils around the world.

The image dedicated to the Afghans shows hands reaching through the red bar at the bottom of the Iranian flag, which is depicted as a sea of blood. Written in Farsi across the top are the words “We can’t breathe.”

Three Afghan migrants died last month and four were injured when Iranian police opened fire on the vehicle they were traveling in, causing it to burst into flames, the Afghan Foreign Ministry has said. The Iranian authorities have denied the police caused the blaze that led to the deaths.

Like Floyd’s killing, the incident in which the Afghans died was captured on video and shared on social media.

Floyd “can be a symbol for us, too,” said taxi driver Amrullah Amir, who has driven past the mural nearly every day since it was painted on June 9. “If someone does something bad, everyone should stand up to show that it’s wrong.”

The heavily fortified Green Zone in Kabul is home to diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy, and to NATO headquarters in Afghanistan. The mural is painted on a part of the blast wall that is not far from the Iranian embassy, ArtLords co-founder Omaid Sharifi said.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @pwwellman

A mural to honor George Floyd, the African American man who died at the hands of police in Minnesota last month, adorns a blast wall near Kabul's Green Zone on June 15, 2020.
PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES