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Afghan Artist in Hiding After Sexual Harassment Protest

by AFP
Shah Marai—AFP

Shah Marai—AFP

Kubra Khademi says she had been threatened and insulted since she staged her protest in Kabul.

A young Afghan artist who walked through the streets of Kabul wearing a suit of armor featuring large breasts and buttocks in protest against sexual harassment has gone into hiding after receiving death threats.

Kubra Khademi, 27, had walked around in the costume in central Kabul on Feb. 26 hoping to cast a spotlight on groping and inappropriate touching of women in public spaces in Afghanistan.

The suit was fashioned at a cost of 500 Afghanis by a local blacksmith, said Khademi. She then decided to take it out for a run. After removing her coat in the street, the young artist, who was wearing a hijab, said she found herself harassed from all sides and was forced to flee after jeers and stones were hurled her way.

“It did go according to what I was expecting. The crowd was coming at me and sort of pushing me,” she said on International Women’s Day, adding she had to escape the area in a taxi.

Khademi said a painful event from her early childhood had evoked her bold protest. “This piece is about what happened to me when I was four or five years old. Somebody touched me and then he just walked away. I was just a female for him. He didn’t care how old I was,” she said. “I was feeling guilty. Why did it happen to me? It was my fault. And I said: ‘I wish my underwear were made of iron.’”

Now in hiding in the suburbs of Kabul, Khademi lamented: “These things happen daily, every moment, every hour in my city.” She added she had received both insults and death threats over email and had been forced to leave her home.

A few days after Khademi’s performance, some male activist carried out their own unique form of protest, donning the all-encompassing burqa to show solidarity with women they said were being oppressed by the garment. “We wanted to tell officials that miseries of Afghan women cannot be felt by marking Women’s Day in big halls with empty speeches. In order to feel them you have to put yourself in their shoes, come out on the streets with burqas on,” said Basir, a 29-year-old activist. “And we also wanted to really experience as a human being how a woman feels under a burqa.”

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