A woman artist in Afghanistan dreams of letting her hair fly free

This isn’t what I normally post, but I hope you’ll give it a bit of your time. A young Afghan artist, Hafiza Qasimi, whose work and studio were destroyed by the Taliban, is trying to leave Afghanistan for Germany, where her brother lives, so she can work freely, and after seeing an article about her in the German press a group of German artists and feminists have rallied to her cause–which is how I heard about it.

At this point, I’ll get out of the way and let Qasimi speak for herself, as she did in the German publication Chrismon (which I offer  you with the help of a bit of AI magic, which Englished the German in its own slightly odd way):

 “Before the Taliban took power, I had a gallery where I exhibited my paintings. I had students that I taught drawing. I earned my own money, I could live from my work as an artist. If I needed something, I could buy it. Now I have to ask my brother, with whom I live in Kabul, for money. I wanted to go to art school, get better, get really good. All of that is now completely out of reach. 

“My brother in Germany, Anosh, encouraged me to paint my feelings and thoughts about life under the Taliban. Almost intoxicated, I painted 13 pictures in February. A photographer friend of mine took pictures of them and sent them to my brother. I immediately burned the originals. Just in time, because in March the Taliban came to search our house. If they had seen the pictures, they would have killed me. I painted women without veils, as dreaming, strong people.

“Since then I’ve felt paralyzed. To continue painting would be life-threatening. This morning I made breakfast for everyone, washed the dishes, what you do as a housewife. It’s hard for me to describe how terrifying I find the idea of ​​having to do this my whole life. I’m an artist, I have all these things in my head that I want to express. And now I do housework and take care of the children – who knows for how long, maybe forever.”

Right now, “Kabul is my prison and . . . my pictures in Germany dream for me.”

From a painting by Hafiza Qasimi.

The photos have not only been dreaming in Germany, they’ve been speaking there at exhibits, and what  stands between Qasimi and joining them there is a visa, and to get one she needs a German bank account of 10,000 euros, which the government requires as proof that she can support herself. When I checked, her supporters had raised over half the amount. Small donations are welcome. Large donations are welcome. It all helps.

Her supporters are also working to get her an art school scholarship.

Of course I hope you’ll donate, but no guilt, please. People have their own struggles with money, and I respect that. Others simply won’t want to. I’m only free to ask if you’re free to say no. 

If you do want to donate, though? The donation website starts out in German and doesn’t offer a translation, but you can see by the painting of the woman with long black hair flying free that you’re in the right place. To donate, press the button that says “spenden,” which is German for spenden. Then fill in the amount and the means of payment (credit card, debit card, or Klarna). 

What’s a Klarna? Something that translates as Klarna and seems to be as untranslatably mysterious in German as it is in (don’t ask me to explain this) Swedish. When I made our donation, I decided to give Klarna a miss and use a credit card. At some point it noticed how befuddled I was and switched to English. Don’t ask me to explain that either.


Update: Since I wrote this, I’ve learned that Qasimi has left Afghanistan for a central Asian country, where she is safe and can apply for a German visa. Exactly how she got out is unclear. All I know is that it was risky, and that a woman is not allowed to travel within the country or to leave it unless she has a male chaperone. She is safe, but she still needs our support.

36 thoughts on “A woman artist in Afghanistan dreams of letting her hair fly free

  1. What a story. We are glad this particular one had a comparatively happy outcome so far…but there are so many world wide…as you point out. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And I hate what’s happening to everyone in Afghanistan (and some other places). I teach greek online to unaccompanied minors in a shelter in Athens, and one of my students is a 16 year old Afghan boy. He left his country two years ago, alone, because the Taliban wanted to conscript him. He has parents and two little brothers, and i live in dread that one day he will tell me they have been slaughtered.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Much appreciation for the work you’re doing. If I believed in blessings, I’d shower them on you (please accept a handful of secular ones).

      You’re right–these things never land only on women and no one is free until everyone is. Thanks for the reminder.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The painting is haunting, I have to say. Veil or bikini or burqa or shorts… women have the right to choose. The basic human right to decide what they want to believe in and what they want to wear. Some would argue it is a God-given right.. the freedom of choice. I was incredibly touched by this post. I am glad she has managed to leave Afghanistan, but feel heartbroken for all the other women who live there still. I read a novel called A Thousand Splendid Suns about what it was like for women under taliban rule. It’s purely fictional but based on real stories and it really makes me furious that men all over the globe, under a million guises, seek to control and humiliate women. Thank you for sharing this. I also wanted to add in post script that Klarna is a buy-now-pay-in-three-installments type of thing for people who cannot pay the full amount upfront.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for clearing up the mystery.

      I only heard on Thursday that Qasimi had managed to get out of Afghanistan and, like you, I’m moved by that but aware of how many women this effort doesn’t help. Still, we can’t turn our backs on one because she’s not thousands.

      I’m with you on the right to choose, which is why the French approach of banning the veil and the burkini infuriates me. In the name of freedom, they’re denying women the freedom to dress the way they want and are, yet again, making a battleground out of women’s clothes and bodies.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: REBLOGGED: A woman artist in Afghanistan dreams of letting her hair fly free – Rationale world…

    • Please do! The further it reaches, the greater the chance they can raise enough money for her to get her visa. I’ve been watching the website, and last I looked it had gone from just over 50% to 58%.


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: A woman artist in Afghanistan dreams of letting her hair fly free – Modern awkward Zulu Maiden.

  6. The painting and the quote are proof of that a independent heart cannot be curbed, even though the entire society goes against it. How will the world be taught that -Gender is just a gender, not the “entirety of existence”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how some people will on the one hand tell you that some certain arrangement of gender relations is the only one that’s natural and them work like mad to enforce it–which should be a clue that it’s not natural at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, true for present scenario when women have already reached a level of education and independence, that they are able to voice against the partial system, but the structure they are trying to build, if built, will take away all the power women have attained by now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • They’re doing they’re damnedest. I can’t argue with that. Or much else that you’ve said. They will cause pain, crush hopes and stunt lives. I don’t want to minimize that or sound like a blinkered optimist. But in spite of everything they do, women will continue to be stubbornly human, even if they can only express it in the smallest of ways, and the system built to keep them from that will be fighting the tide.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. If it happens so, it will be a display of human innate strength and free spirit. A visual redefining the meaning of ‘self’. But what I believe and have believed is that a human is crafted by the circumstances and situations provided. And in 100 years or so, with no education and a defined homely role for women, I am afraid they might accept women’s role as it will be and perform it accordingly not knowing what freedom and independence feel like. Surely their might be some rebellion but the magnitude and multitude of which is a point of question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re wonderful. In spite of speaking no German, I found it fairly easy to get through.

      If you have a way to pass on the link, please do. Last time I checked, they’d raised over 70% of the amount they need. I think they’ll make it, but they could surely use a boost.


  8. Pingback: An update on Afghan artist Hafiza Qasimi | Notes from the U.K.

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