For the last few days, an image, which seems very relevant to the current situation in Afghanistan, is going around on social media, with the claim that it has been created by Afghan artist Shamsia Hassani. The image shows a large number of burqa-clad women standing and facing in one direction, but one lone woman, with the face covering of her burqa removed, is seen reading a book standing in the opposite direction. However, the image is being wrongly attributed to the Afghan artist, and the image is old.
People are tweeting this image saying that it has been created by well-known Afghan graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani, who is the associate professor of Drawing and Anatomy Drawing at the Kabul University.
Afghan journalist Habib Khan posted the image today on Twitter with the caption “A incredible piece of art from Afghan artist, Shamsia Hassani.”
A large number of Twitter users, including people with verified handles, posted the image making the same claim in various languages.
The image caught the attention of so many people because it seems to convey the feelings of Afghan women who are protesting against the Taliban which has announced the brutal Sharia law in the country. The new rulers of Afghanistan have imposed various restrictions on women, including a mandatory veil while going out. And as several prominent social media users made the claim, it went viral soon.
However, the image was not created by Shamsia Hassani, and it is not related to the current situation in Afghanistan. The image was actually created by ad agency Young & Rubicam as an entry for the CLIO awards for the Reporter Magazine (Magazín Reportér) from the Czech Republic in the year 2018. The image that has gone viral also contain some modification, in an attempt to hide its origin. In the original image, the woman was actually shown holding a copy of the Reporter magazine, which was replaced with a book with a blank red cover in the image shared with the wrong claim. However, the rest of the image was kept unchanged, including the face of the woman.
Young & Rubicam had created three images as part of the campaign titled ‘Changing Your Perspective’, and this image was titled ‘Questioning Radicalism’. The other two entries were ‘Questioning Neo-Nazism’ and ‘Questioning War’, which had the same theme in different situations.
All three images were photographs, with some digital retouching.
On the other hand, Shamsia Hassani is a graffiti artist, and she has actually created artworks related to the Taliban invasion of Afghanistan and women. She is Afghanistan’s first female graffiti and street artist, and is known for a bold representation of women’s rights in her art. On August 10, less than a week before the fall of Kabul, she had published a graffiti titles ‘nightmare’ showing a woman holding a musical instrument surrounded by men with weapons.
On August 15, the day the Taliban captured Kabul, she created an image showing a woman holding a flower pot in front of an armed man.
Three days later, she posted ‘Death to darkness’, showing that now the flower pot has been knocked to the ground, and the woman is crying on her knees in front of the Talib. In both the images, the woman was dressed in radiant blue, while everything else, including the armed man, were black, showing the extreme contrast of hope with fear and despair.
She has created several graffiti since the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul, and on September 1, she made one depicting the painful migration of Afghans from their motherland to save their lives.
While Shamsia Hassani continues to post bold images, her current location is unknown. Her manager has said that she is in a safe location.