Herat artists hold exhibition to protest restrictions on women

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A group of female artists held an exhibition in the city of Herat to protest a recent decree by the Islamic Emirate that asks women to cover themselves from head to toe.

The decree was issued on May 7, prompting harsh criticism from the international community as well as Afghans across the country and abroad.

The Herat women displayed their artworks, including paintings, photos and calligraphy that showed their dissatisfaction and opposition to the restrictions imposed on women by the Islamic Emirate.

“Afghan women have always been wearing their veils. They are not defying the rules of hijab, but what the current government has put in place is really hard for Afghan women to observe,” said Farishta Noori, a female artist.

The organizers of the event said that one of their goals is to support those women and girls who have been frustrated in recent months by being barred from going to school or jobs.

“Our hopes must not be destroyed. We as women will be able to become self-reliant once again, one day,” said Arzoo Mohammadi, a female artist.

Some women who visited the exhibition asked the Islamic Emirate to ease the restrictions as they will impede their progress and will restrain them from going forward in their lives.

“In this exhibition, there are many nice artworks on the incidents happening in Afghanistan,” said Fahima Rezaee, a Herat resident.

But the provincial department of vice and virtue said that the hijab or the head-to-toe covering is an obligation for women and that it needs to be observed by them.

“Almighty Allah ordered us 1,400 years and asked his prophet to tell women to keep their eyes down and not to look at men. Therefore, hijab is an obligation for women that comes from God,” said Mawlawi Aziz-Ur-Rahman, head of the vice and virtue directorate in Herat.

Female students in the northern province of Badakhshan said that they have been told by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue to cover their faces inside the university.

The students said that they have been struggling with heat because of being obliged to wear black clothes and masks in the university.

“There are some girls who have pneumonia problems and cannot use the mask, so we are against wearing masks in the class if it is possible to do so,” said Royta Tahiri, a student.

“As we consider their wishes, they should also consider our situation as humans, and as women are half of the Afghan society,” said Kamila Noorzad, a student.

They also complained about the mistreatment of the officials of the ministry toward the female students.

“They have a treatment which is very aggressive toward women,” said Palwasha, a student.

Meanwhile, the department of Vice and Virtue of Badakhshan said that women can use different colors for Hijab but the black dress uniform has been required by the Ministry of Higher Education for female students.

“Everyone (can) use various colors. It (color) doesn’t belong to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue. Our stress is on hijab and covering the face,” said Shir Mohammad Jawad, head of the department of Vice and Virtue of Badakhshan.

He also said that no member of the Vice and Virtue has the right to disturb the people.