KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A feminine tattoo artist, a rarity in ultra-conservative Afghanistan, is taking an enormous threat with each buyer she takes on.
It’s been 18 months since Suraya Shaheedi began her cellular tattoo store within the capital, Kabul. She’s obtained loss of life threats for taking up the taboo of the ink-on-skin drawings she does — in addition to being a single girl prepared to work with males.
“I’ve struggled quite a bit, even been threatened with loss of life, as a result of individuals in Afghanistan suppose doing tattoos is haram,” she mentioned, utilizing the Arabic phrase which means prohibited by faith.
“Whether or not my prospects are males or girls doesn’t matter to me. I do tattoos for each,” says Shaheedi, a 26-year-old, divorced single mom.
In a black curtained room, surrounded by his pals, a younger buyer shrieks in ache because the needle pierces and inks his pores and skin.
“I can’t go away the career I like,” Shaheedi provides.
She simply will get prospects, whether or not males or girls, as social attitudes towards tattoos loosen up and extra ink parlors open. It’s the type of small, however vital change that Shaheedi feels a return of Taliban rule may threaten.
After a long time of battle, Afghans need peace. A giant concern for a lot of like Shaheedi is that U.S.-led peace talks with the Taliban will increase the militant group.
“I’m joyful if the Taliban return leads to peace, but when they disagree with my work and impede the liberty and progress of ladies, then I would be the first to face in opposition to them,” she vowed.
Ladies like Shaheedi have carved out an area for themselves in a society the place customized closely restricts girls’s roles and schooling. Near 40% of Afghanistan’s eligible women aren’t allowed by their households to go to highschool, and nearly 20% are compelled by their households to go away college after grade six, in accordance with a survey by the Asia Basis launched this yr.
In areas underneath the Taliban, who now management or maintain sway over roughly half of the nation, girls aren’t allowed to go away their houses with out a male escort. The rebel group dominated Afghanistan with a harsh model of Islamic legislation from 1996 to 2001, when the U.S. invaded.
Shaheedi divorced her husband eight years in the past whereas she was pregnant. She and her son now reside together with her dad and mom. Her father helps her work, although Afghanistan’s patriarchal society usually forbids a lady from touching a person to whom she isn’t associated or married.
Her dad and mom and elder brother persuaded her to develop into a tattoo artist, Shaheedi mentioned, after she obtained her first tattoo whereas visiting Turkey — an arrow piercing the picture of a watch on her proper hand, which she says symbolizes overcoming adversity.
Shaheedi’s father, Hussain, 58, believes the strict customs controlling girls in Afghanistan want to alter. “I assist my daughter in each method, and she or he makes me proud the best way she’s stood in opposition to this taboo,” he mentioned.
Shaheedi makes use of Instagram and different social media to seek out and meet prospects. She prefers to not maintain a parlor with a hard and fast handle out of issues for her security.
She additionally does manicures and make-up. When she met one buyer just lately at a hair salon, the shopper’s husband acknowledged her from her social media pages as being the tattoo artist “Ahoo,” the nickname she makes use of on-line. The husband threatened to kill Shaheedi if she stored posting photographs of her tattoo work on social media.
Tattoos have been frequent in a few of Afghanistan’s rural areas, particularly amongst Pashtun and Hazara girls, however the ink piercings have been used sparingly, usually as just a few inexperienced dots on the face.
Tattoo artists say demand among the many youthful era has risen for extra flamboyant and private designs, and with it, the variety of ink parlors elevated within the capital.
Omid Noori, 23, has 16 tattoos throughout his physique. He needs so as to add one other on his left arm, exhibiting the pinnacle of a lion with a crown and wreaths. However he solely needs new designs on elements of his physique that his clothes can disguise, as a result of he says he’s bored with listening to individuals’s adverse feedback in regards to the ink piercings.
He additionally worries what would occur if Islamic militants caught him.
“I’m pondering that if the Taliban return, they’ll lower off my arms and legs,” he mentioned.
He inked his final tattoos at a parlor belonging to a former Afghan military officer, Nazeer Mosawi.
Mosawi, 42, fought for seven years in Afghanistan’s civil battle with the Islamic insurgents. He says he’s nonetheless combating the battle, however this time his battle is in opposition to society’s conservatism, along with his tattoo machine as his weapon.
Mosawi receives threatening cellphone and social media messages nearly daily, demanding he shut his tattoo enterprise. “They even threaten to beat me, burn my store,” he mentioned. “There isn’t any various: I inform them, OK, I can’t flee this nation due to these threats. It’s my homeland.”
However for each menace he will get, Mousawi mentioned he will get a number of messages with optimistic suggestions or individuals curious to study extra.
Shaheedi mentioned she can be working to place her 8-year-old son, now in second grade, by college. She can be learning enterprise administration at a college in Kabul.
“Being a lady in Afghanistan requires guts,” she mentioned. “I’m pleased with myself for having the center.”