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

KABUL, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin says he has witnessed suicide attacks, explosions and threats from hardline Islamic 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.

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.

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Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, exercises during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, performs in a school in Kabul Zoo, Afghanistan September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, watches a Charlie Chaplin movie in Parwan province, Afghanistan September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, poses for a picture after his performance in Kabul Zoo, Afghanistan September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, walks in Kabul Zoo, Afghanistan September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Schoolboys watch Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, perform at a school in Kabul, Afghanistan September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, reacts during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, talks with his fans before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, exercises during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, exercises during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, has his make-up applied before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, performs at a school in Kabul, Afghanistan September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, exercises during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, sits before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, reacts before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, reacts before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, reacts in a mirror before his performance in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir 25, performs at a school in Kabul, Afghanistan September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, looks on during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghanistan's Charlie Chaplin, Karim Asir, 25, looks out from a window during his rehearsals in Kabul, Afghanistan August 29, 2018. Picture taken August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
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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 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 organized 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.

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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