Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin says he aims to make people smile, forget grief

Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin says he has witnessed suicide attacks, explosions and threats from militant groups


Reuters September 13, 2018
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, exercises during his rehearsals. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL: Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin says he has witnessed suicide attacks, explosions and threats from militant groups, but is determined to waddle and bumble to fulfill the primary goal of his life.

"It is very simple, I want to give Afghans a reason to smile," said Karim Asir, a stand-up comedian who performs across the capital Kabul in Chaplin's trademark oversized shoes, baggy pants, cane and black bowler hat.

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

Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25. PHOTO: REUTERS Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25. PHOTO: REUTERS

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 militants and suicide bombers, mainly claiming allegiance to Islamic State.

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

Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir 25, performs at a school in Kabul. PHOTO: REUTERS Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir 25, performs at a school in Kabul. PHOTO: REUTERS

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"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.

Karim Asir, 25, watches a Charlie Chaplin movie in Parwan province. PHOTO: REUTERS Karim Asir, 25, watches a Charlie Chaplin movie in Parwan province. PHOTO: REUTERS

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.

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