This is something a little different from the light hearted items I usually share with readers of The Suburban Times, but for the past several years, I ‘ve been following and sharing the efforts of Tim Ham to rescue an Afghan artist and his family from almost certain death in Afghanistan. Only a few months ago, it looked as if success was on the way but there has been setback after setback. Here, Tim Ham shares a different aspect of the story. You can hear his report, and actually see Abdul’s paintings on our virtual event program, Coffee, Chat and Change the World at 9:00 Pacific Time on June 5.
Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUqf–sqz4jH9LiFtl_xeViGyqtSIwxSRQ9
For Afghan Women, it not just about the Burqa
From Tim Ham.
Afghan women have suffered under decades of war, but from 2001 to 2021, women experienced newfound freedoms to learn and express themselves in a positive fashion. Unfortunately, women are now suffering under the rigid beliefs of the Taliban. The burqa has once again become a symbol for Afghan women’s freedom.
As so simply portrayed in Afghan artist Abdul’s (last name withheld) painting “Freedom”, this young woman is not only protesting women wearing of the burqa (which she has thrown off) but is also addressing the rigid restrictions now forced upon girls and women by the Taliban.
Critically, women no longer have the right to education above the sixth grade, yet, ironically, the Taliban has declared only women can teach girls in Elementary and Middle Schools. How will they be trained?
Regardless of their interests or inherent abilities, women can no longer go to university to be trained as teachers, writers, artists, engineers, or scientists. They are also banned from playing a role in international NGOs like CARE and the International Rescue Committee, which employs over 8,000 Afghan men and women as both NGOs had ceased Afghan operations, although the Taliban have slowly allowed some women to provide some support while still limiting the number of women aid workers to deal with the nearly 20 million Afghans deemed food insecure. Afghan girls and women are protesting, under punishment from the Taliban. Women are restricted in how far they can travel away from home without a male escort, they cannot go to public parks with their children or to restaurants with their husbands and are forced to wear the hijab and burqa. A longtime advocate for women’s rights, Abdul taught art to hundreds of girls and women prior to September 2021 when the Taliban regained power. As shown in his famous painting “Afghan Mother,” he relates to the pain women endure.
Abdul is not without his own pain. Internationally recognized for his painting skills, he was named one of Afghanistan’s finest artists in 2018. The Taliban now ban the art of all living things. Abdul is no longer allowed to teach, publicly display, or sell his paintings of people for which he is particularly skilled. The Gallery where he once taught now has a handwritten sign on the door, demanded by the Taliban, “No Females Allowed”. He and others are forbidden to teach girls to draw and paint.
Abdul was denied an opportunity to come to the US to teach because Consular Officers at the US Embassy felt he would not return to Afghanistan when his one-year teaching contract was completed. He remains in Afghanistan with his wife, two daughters and two sons, awaiting the opportunity to travel to a country where he can once again paint and teach, as his attorneys seek new visas. It is, unfortunately, a difficult process.
You can learn more about Abdul and provide support through his Go Fund Me account: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rescuing-an-afghan-artist-and-family.
Timothy Ham worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Jordan on USAID funded efforts, met Abdul in 2009 in Afghanistan and has been assisting him since the Taliban return in 2021.