Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Afghan Charlie Chaplin determined to put smiles on faces amid bombings

Photo essay: Karim Asir has one simple goal in life: 'I want to give Afghans a reason to smile'

"Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease from pain" - Charlie Chaplin answer's his critics, New York Times, 1940.

Karim Asir is determined to waddle in his idol's footsteps and fulfil his primary goal in life.

"It is very simple, I want to give Afghans a reason to smile," said the Kabul stand-up comedian who performs as the country's Charlie Chaplin.

Dressed in the actor's trademark oversized shoes, baggy pants, cane and black bowler hat, Asir said he has witnessed suicide attacks and been targeted by insurgents.

The 25 year old said Chaplin impersonators are found all over the world helping people ignore grief and making them laugh, and he does the same. His early years were in Iran, where his family fled after Taliban rule took hold in Afghanistan in 1996. There he saw performances of Chaplin on Iranian TV.

After the family returned home, Asir started wearing make-up and recreating Chaplin's characters in his performances, despite his parent's apprehensions.

His live performances provide respite in a city that routinely gets attacked by Taliban insurgents and ISIS suicide bombers.


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Asir says he has been threatened by militants who say his performances are haram. But despite the threats, he performs in public parks, orphanages, private parties and at charity events organised by international aid agencies.

"I want to give my people a chance to forget their problems such as war, conflicts and insecurity in Afghanistan," he said.

Afghanistan's traditional culture includes music and performance arts. However, under the Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001, most cultural activities were banned because they were seen as anti-Islamic.

In Kabul, when Asir's fans surround him to take selfies, he smiles but is constantly worried about attacks.

"I am afraid of getting attacked by a suicide bomber or an explosion but these issues cannot stop me from being Charlie Chaplin," he said.

Updated: September 13, 2018 02:29 PM