AfghanistanSpecial ReportsWomen & Human Rights

Efforts of Girls for Survival: “Painting Gives a Sense of Freedom”

By Karima Moradi

Bayan News – While the strict constraints of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan continue to oppress women, female students continue to struggle for their demands and basic rights after two years.

Sadaf, who graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Science at Kabul University, tells Bayan News that she has been interested in painting since childhood and began learning painting as a profession at an educational center when she entered Kabul University.

Due to restrictions, Sadaf does not allow video recording during the interview, but she shares her paintings with Bayan News.

She added to the Bayan News reporter, “Painting gives a sense of freedom. I can express all my emotions. Everyone has their own way of expressing their feelings, and I express my feelings through painting.”

Most of Sadaf’s paintings have a patriotic sentiment, and in one of her paintings, she depicts the conditions of women and girls. One of her paintings shows a woman wearing a burqa and giving a message of freedom from within a cage.

On the other hand, the current situation of Afghan society is well reflected in most of Sadaf’s works. Her latest piece includes a painting of the old city of Kabul, which was exhibited in an online art competition launched by Afghans residing in Turkey.

Sadaf talks about the sweet memories she has during her painting time: “When I paint, my nieces gather around me and they are happy. It feels really good.”

However, she also talks about her bitterest memory when the house-to-house efforts of the Islamic Emirate began, and she was forced to destroy one of her works. She does not want to provide details about that piece.

After the resurgence of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, Sadaf lost many opportunities. She had the desire to pursue a master’s degree and work, but the imposed restrictions prevented her from achieving her goals and dreams. According to her, the problems are currently greater for female painters and artists. The decline in art exhibitions is one of the serious issues that exist now.

Sadaf calls on the Islamic Emirate to support female painters and, in addition, to open the doors of education and universities to girls.

Meanwhile, Zalikha, a painting instructor and a psychology student at the Kabul Education University, tells Bayan News that the imposed restrictions on women and girls have created irreparable problems, and a dark future is envisaged now.

Zulaikha believes that the restrictions of the past two years have had a significant negative impact on girls, and they are unable to easily engage in cultural and artistic activities in the current social conditions. “When I paint, I forget the sorrow. I forget where I am, what kind of country I live in. But when I don’t paint, I feel more pressure. The fact that I have survived in my studies, everything gets messed up,” she said.

Zulaikha, who has been teaching at a painting academy for the past five months, says that in one of her classes, about 30 girls attend, some of whom do not have a good economic situation, and others are not allowed by their families due to the restrictions of the Islamic Emirate.

Before the Islamic Emirate’s rule, Zulaikha aimed to become a “boundless psychologist” in the future. However, after the arrival of the Islamic Emirate, she wishes to serve people through her art and depict the problems of Afghanistan, especially women, and she asks the government to believe in the abilities of girls and allow them to pursue education. She hopes that education will rescue girls from a fate of insignificance and confinement to their homes.

On the other hand, Roya Amiri, who has completed the twelfth grade and is 19 years old, was unable to take the university entrance exam due to the restrictions.

She tells Bayan News, “Everyone witnesses that women are severely limited in this period, both in terms of education and art. But despite all this, with great enthusiasm and passion, I made an effort and eventually succeeded.”

She describes two of her works as being about women and girls, saying, “The idea that led me to create this painting is the current situation in Afghanistan, where women and girls suffer and are confined to their homes. In this period when there is no opportunity for women to receive education in the country, this painting represents the deprivation of freedom for women and girls.”

“The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights have exacerbated this crisis, as everyone can see that they have banned women from entering universities and many workplaces,” she adds.

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