Young graffiti artist Malina Suliman on Tuesday said she was threatened by the Taliban in Afghanistan after painting graffiti of a skeleton wearing a burqa, or Islamic headscarf, reported India's NDTV.
Suliman, a talented young painter whose works have reportedly been admired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told the Mumbai Mirror the skeleton item was a self-portrait illustrating violations against women in Afghanistan.
Women in the predominantly Muslim nation are routinely denied basic rights like education and are often subject to abuse.
Suliman is in India for her father's hospitalization after he was attacked in what the family believes was a warning from the Taliban, said NDTV.
The 23-year-old told NDTV that her father and five brothers don't support her art, despite graduating from the Art Council Karachi with a degree in fine arts two years ago.
"Why these things are illegal for women in Afghanistan?" Suliman asked, according to NDTV. "Why don't women have rights? What is wrong?"
Much of Suliman's artistic development has been in secret. Her parents yanked her out of art school at Kabul and relocated to hyper-conservative Kandahar several years ago, she said, according to the Mirror.
But that didn't stop her from working -- as conservatives in Kandahar soon noticed. Suliman said they were quick to disapprove of a sculpture she made of a disfigured child to mark World Disability Day not long after her arrival to the city, according to the Mirror. She was criticized, she said, for daring to create a three-dimensional figure. She defended the work to the Mirror, saying that due to years of warfare, "[t]here are many disabled children like this in Afghanistan" and they "are part of the future of our country and need our attention."
Undeterred by critics in Kandahar, Suliman continued her artistic work holed up at home. She told the Mirror that made her one of many Afghan women "kept indoors in the name of culture and honor," adding: "Not a single thought is spared for their aspirations and dreams."
"When I was taken to Kandahar, I wasn’t allowed to visit galleries or meet my artist friends," she told the Mirror. "I had a storm within me."
That storm soon erupted on the city's streets in the form of skeletal graffiti -- an unconventional if effective method of public exhibition. “I wanted to be the voice of the youth, and of the women in Kandahar who face similar restrictions instead of making paintings that would only be exhibited in galleries," Suliman explained, reported the Mirror.
That's when extremists began threatening her and her family, she said, and in December, her father was wounded in a believed Taliban attack. He is said to be undergoing hip surgery in Mumbai. The family plans to return to Afghanistan at the end of March and relocate Afghanistan's more progressive capital, said the Mirror.
You can watch Suliman's interview with NDTV (in English) here.