Women's Rights

Female Afghan artists depict women's beauty, challenges in paintings

By Emran

Amid increased challenges and restrictions facing Afghan women, a group of female artists have come together in Herat to illustrate their thoughts and emotions in paintings. Members of the group, known as Shamama, gather around a table at a painting workshop in Herat city and paint portraits of women that depict their beauty and achievements but also the restrictions that they face. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Amid increased challenges and restrictions facing Afghan women, a group of female artists have come together in Herat to illustrate their thoughts and emotions in paintings.

Members of the group, known as Shamama, gather around a table at a painting workshop in Herat city and paint portraits of women that depict their beauty and achievements but also the restrictions that they face.

Shamama is trying to capture Afghan women's voices and grievances in the paintings, Zahra Najafi, 22, said.

"Afghan women are suffering from harsh restrictions, helplessness and despair, and we want to use our art to raise their voices," she added.

Two young women visit a painting exhibition by the Shamama team June 3 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Two young women visit a painting exhibition by the Shamama team June 3 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"Nobody can deprive women of pursuing their education and acquiring artistic skills. Afghan women want to make progress, and their demands should be respected. We are determined to depict their achievements with our artwork," she said.

If one door closes, another will definitely open for women and girls, and they will make a unified decision to move forward and make progress, said Najafi.

The group wants to put the spotlight on Afghan women, Frishta Noori, another member of Shamama, said.

"We want to illustrate their beauty and capabilities through our paintings. We want to show to the world that Afghan girls and women... have made significant strides in various sectors over the past two decades. They are fully empowered to utilise their abilities to build a prosperous Afghanistan," she noted.

Struggle for progress

Women across Herat have continued to be active and to contribute to various sectors despite the restrictions imposed on their role in society in recent months.

Despite the limitations, women create new initiatives every day, and with these initiatives, they lead society toward prosperity and empowerment, Shamama member Arzu Mohammadi said.

"Through our artwork, we want to encourage our countrywomen to continue their struggle for progress and to never give up. Confronting these challenges and fighting restrictions are the only way out of the darkness."

"The current battle is for survival, and we will never give up," Mohammadi said, adding that Afghan women will seize every opportunity to build a bright future for themselves.

Enforcing restrictions and confining women and girls to their homes have not been successful and will never produce a positive outcome, she said.

On June 2, Shamama organised an exhibition to showcase its paintings in Herat city.

Its artwork reflected its protest against mandatory coverage (hijab), the ban on girls' education, and the restrictions working women face.

It will be impossible to sideline women and girls, who are well aware of their rights, said Zamarot Hussaini, a second-year student at Herat University who visited the exhibition.

"We will stand determined to fight the current restrictions. We shall not let anyone stifle our voices. The time has passed when Afghan women and girls would bow, give up their fight and confine themselves to their homes," she said.

"Undoubtedly our ongoing protest and struggle against restrictions are shaping our future. We will not allow others to decide for us and paint us a dark future," she added.

'Restrictions won't last long'

The societal role of Afghan women is well established and has taken root over the past two decades, said several women's rights activists in Herat.

Restrictions have not had much impact on women's activities in society, said activist Tolo Adel.

"The closure of girls' schools and the closure of government offices and parks to educated and capable women, as well as other restrictions, shall not last that long and have proven to be ineffective," she said.

"Imposing such restrictions on women and girls in the 21st century is ridiculous and doomed to fail," she added.

"There are as many as 15 million women in Afghanistan -- nearly half of the population. What force can stand against 15 million people? No one can dare to deprive this number of people of their rights," Adel said.

If anything, restrictions have motivated women to make more progress, some say.

Society needs women and it will fail without their contributions in various sectors, said Wazhma Parastash, a women's rights activist in Ghor province.

"Thousands of educated and experienced women will not stay home forever and witness the violation of their rights. This silence has now been broken," she said.

Without women's contributions and active participation, Parastash said, it is impossible to get through the current turmoil, and it is impossible for Afghanistan to progress and prosper.

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Painting is one of the ancient artistic cultures of Herat province. The girls of Herat were able to show their artistic culture achievements to the world as the girls still keep the painting culture alive. High restriction of women is not right. To be honest, women can carry their duties shoulder to shoulder in any dire situation. Afghan women have won many championships for Afghanistan in every sector. We cannot forget this women's championship. Restrictions imposed on the women means that our eyes are closed. Women should expect that the existing restrictions on women will end, and girls' schools will start. There have been problems for a few months. Opening of an exhibition of women's markets in the city of Herat in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Badakhshan province in Helmand province shows that doing everything is possible. With respects, Musawar


Part two The British and Pakistan were victorious, and the Nebraska project became successful. It is claimed that this project will continue till the Day of Judgment and will only continue in Afghanistan. Someone wrote about Afghan Sikhs and Hindus: They made a mistake by leaving. They should have stayed and let be killed like everyone else ... Today and yesterday, there were reports of murders and beheadings; some laughed at them, some made fun of them, and some showed sadness, but most were concerned about how many likes the sadness gets. We are not shocked by the murder, and the news of the murder, can awaken our intellect and consciousness and start a debate on the (why?) A question against the Nebraska project. We all believe that (fighting and jihad) is a religious order, and it will only continue in Afghanistan until the Day of Judgment. If this belief is a little crooked, count the stamps of ex-communication! Nebraska is winning! - Abdul Ghafoor Liwal Former Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Tehran


You may have read Mikhail Sholokhov's novel "Silent Don." The most important part of the whole story is that the hero of the story (Gregory) suffers from his first murder. Gregory is a soldier and must kill his enemy on the front line. Otherwise, he will be killed. He does so, but he has no sleep, no rest for a few days, and every moment he sees the face of the slain enemy and the moment he killed him. The story goes on, and Gregory fights on all opposing and pro-government fronts; the second murder shakes him, the third and the fourth ... but the time is such that Gregory kills hundreds of people, and a time comes as the killing of a person is just like drinking a mouthful of water. Afghan society has become indifferent to killing people; that indifference stems from religious justification (Jihad). I heard, or I read, that the massive Afghan genocide process was a project of the University of Nebraska designed to make Afghans accustomed to killing each other. Nebraska, the UK, and Pakistan started this project long ago, even in 1973 and 1974. They have named it Jihad, and one of its characteristics was that it would kill more of its own than foreigners. The goal was to bring every rival in Asia to Afghanistan and other Pashtun-dominated areas (tribal agencies) and then face them to a standstill and failure. They faced the first generation with the red bear, the second was trained to kill among themselves, and the third generation may be confronted with a baby bear and a yel


The United States and the whole world betrayed against the Afghan women. They knew that the Taliban are telling lies and they never respect women’s rights, but they were still saying that the Taliban are changed and they would treat women well; however, in reality, it is proven that they have not changed, but they have become wilder and more ignorant than they were before, and their enmity against the women has also increased. The United States must be held responsible for the collapse of republic system. The United States must say why it sacrificed Afghanistan, its people, its women, and children, democracy, and human rights for its own objectives. Why it helped the fall of the republic and why it doesn’t make the Taliban accountable for their promises? The truth is that the United States doesn’t care about democracy or human rights, it only cares about its own interests. Shireen Alizai


Painting is one of the means by which a message reaches its audience in the best possible way. In the past, the women used to show their achievements through painting because it was better to deliver their message peacefully and to draw the attention of the opposite side toward accepting their demands, lifting their restrictions, and attracting authorities to cooperate in solving their challenges.