“Art is stronger than war.”
Shamsia Hassani

Shamsia Hassani is an Afghan painter and graffiti artist. Born in 1988 in Iran, her family returned to Afghanistan in 2005. Hassani’s work has been exhibited globally and has inspired women, especially in Muslim countries, to see themselves as individuals with agency. After the Taliban took control of the country in August, Hassani went into hiding. She reemerged on Instagram on September 7 with this message: 

“I remember when I returned to Afghanistan 16 years ago after the fall of the Taliban, I felt at home for the first time. I no longer had to hide my identity. I happily said in my heart that I am Afghan and this is Afghanistan where I belong, this is my country! When I saw the map of Afghanistan, I said to myself, how good it is that this piece of the planet is mine and my place. How beautiful was the sense of ownership.

After a while, I entered the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. Gradually, the situation deteriorated again and explosions began. Everyone was afraid that the Taliban would come back.

Kabul was developing, women were returning to the community, girls were going to school and university. Cultural and artistic programs increased, beautiful spaces for friendly meetings were created, cafes, cultural centers, restaurants and at the same time the war was progressing!

Each of us has experienced being close to explosions many times. Life with fear has aged us all from within. In recent years, the situation has become so bad that families have broken up, some have lost family members in the blasts, some have left the country, and some have lost their lives in trafficking.

Despite the war, we still had small joys that kept the hope of life alive in us; every time our hearts trembled that they would not take away these small and momentary joys from us.

Finally, the calamity that we feared came upon us; it is very hard to believe how everything was ruined at once. Friends and relatives were so scattered around the world in a week or two that it is no longer clear when and where we will see each other again. And those who stayed in Afghanistan and could not get out. The fact that you can no longer return to your homeland destroys you bit by bit. It is not clear when you will see your family and friends again. Woe to these bad times, woe to all this bitterness.