Photographer Ebrahim Noroozi travels through Afghanistan, asking: What does life look like for women and girls under the Taliban? He has portrayed female athletes who are no longer allowed to be girls.
The Taliban prohibit women and girls in Afghanistan from
- to study,
- from going to a park,
- from working out at a sports center,
- from going to amusement parks in Kabul,
- to work for aid organizations (except in the health sector),
- to leave the house without hijab or burqa,
- to ride in a car without a hijab,
- to attend school,
- to enter hospitals and workplaces together with men,
- in some cases, to appear as actresses in films and series.
Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, they have pushed women out of public life piece by piece, depriving them of the possibility of work, leisure, education, participation. The Islamists are inflicting massive damage on women and girls, for the moment and in the long term: girls and women are growing up far from school and further education, and yes, of course: far from what gives pleasure.
Iranian photographer Ebrahim Noroozi visited the country last September to document the new, forced daily lives of Afghan women. He says, “The women have been deprived of everything. Day after day they are further restricted in their rights, they are almost only at home. It’s bitter and painful to watch.”
To show this suffering, Noroozi used staging as a tool. In a series, he portrays former Afghan female athletes, who are now no longer allowed to practice their sport, with their sports equipment. All the female athletes wear a burqa in order to remain anonymous, as they fear reprisals from the Taliban. But also because some of them continue to practice their sport in secret. Even before the Taliban took over, girls and women often had to fight to be allowed to play soccer, run, ride a bike, box, skateboard, Noroozi reports. Now, such activities have become impossible.
It was difficult to find female protagonists for his series, he says. Wherever sports take place, in the halls, on the hard tracks, the training grounds of the capital Kabul, women are no longer tolerated. “I looked for female athletes for a long time. And it was even harder to convince them to join. Everyone is full of fear.”
These women have dared:
Woman with bicycle in Kabul: “The girls and women I met are totally disappointed. Their dreams and goals are gone,” says photographer Ebrahim Noroozi.
A female boxer poses for the photo. Noroozi says, “One girl used to be in the national team. Now she is looking for a new job: washing clothes, cleaning people’s houses – she would do anything to have an income so she can support her family and younger siblings and cook them food. The need in most families is great.”
This women’s soccer team had to fight hard for their right to play the sport even before the Taliban returned. Eventually they made it, trained a lot. They have since been banned from sports facilities. They are no longer allowed to kick and be a team that fights together for something and achieves something.
The ban on sports robs Afghan women of much more than physical activity. It negatively impacts the physical and mental health of girls and women. Prevents them from finding or reuniting with friends. And to feel what they are capable of learning.
Taekwondo in Kabul? Impossible. Some girls, says Ebrahim Noroozi, continued training secretly at home.