The U.S. mainstream media has remained characteristically silent about the continued violence in Afghanistan; as a result, few people know that a number of attacks by the Taliban occurred in Kabul on the day of President Obama’s inauguration, and at least six US-led troops were killed in a roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan on January 29th.
Even as President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently endorsed, on January 11, 2013, the opening of a “Taliban office” in a third-party country, and made plans to accelerate the schedule for U.S. troops shifting fully to a supporting role by spring, the Taliban remains a tremendous threat to Afghanistan’s stability.
Obama has stated that the capabilities of the Afghan army exceed “initial expectations,” (whose expectations, we do not know), yet the Taliban continue to commit acts of war and brutal attacks on civilians.
Since the beginning of the Afghan War in late 2001, more than 2,000 U.S. troops and nearly 1,100 coalition troops have died there, and more than 1,200 Afghan soldiers died in 2012 compared to more than 550 in 2011, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The number of civilian casualties is estimated to be more than 20,000, the majority perpetrated by the Taliban.
Yet in the midst of this continued violence, oppression and uncertainty, in Kandahar, a war-torn southern province of Afghanistan, often referred to as the “birthplace” of the Taliban, one woman wages a unique battle of her own.
Malina Suliman: Warrior Artist
Her weapons of choice: A paint brush, sculpting clay, a spray can. Her battlefield: Sometimes a canvas, sometimes a kiln, sometimes a concrete wall.
At times working in abject fear during the day, more typically by flashlight after dark, 23 year-old Malina Suliman creates and boldly displays paintings and sculptures that depict and express what life is truly like for the oppressed people of her country — particularly the women.
In nearby, and somewhat safer, Kabul (safer being a relative term), Suliman has chosen to make her home and pursue her career. Scorched bodies lay strewn against blood-stained walls — not an uncommon sight in Afghanistan — but what makes this grisly scene different is that the blood is red paint — and part of one of Suliman’s art projects.
Her goal? To give voice to those who do not have a voice, to raise awareness.
Suliman’s story has recently been covered in a number of news articles around the world. She has been portrayed as a brave, young artist, waging battle against the oppressive Taliban. Indeed, the path she has chosen to take with her life is full of undeniable risks, but key elements have been left out of her story in most accounts — perhaps because they are not — on the surface — as glamorous, edgy or easily juxtaposed to the acts of war she exposes through her artwork. But the rest of Suliman’s story only serves to enrich the power of her work and her status as a figure of hope for those who are still living under the weight of Islamist oppression.
Unlike most women in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern, Islamist countries, Suliman is educated. She somehow managed to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Art Council Karachi in 2010 and then moved back to her home city, Kandahar, where she founded a local art group, Kandahar Fine Arts Association (KFAA). Enormous accomplishments for anyone in that country — particularly a woman.
According to Suliman, “The night of my first exhibit my family told me ‘if you go, don’t come back’.”
While her sisters and mother now quietly support her, her brothers and father remain fiercely opposed. She lives under the constant, real threat of death in retaliation for her defiance of Shariah law.
When asked if she is scared, she mentions her sculpture of a hanged woman and smiles.
“That’s what happens to women when they ask for their rights in this country,” she says with defiance and determination.
And she fights on…
To find out more about Malina Suliman, and to view her artwork, visit her website, http://maloaa3.com/.