'Disappointment' - drawing a by Hossien Rezaye 2020 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
'Disappointment' - drawing a by Hossien Rezaye 2020 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye

Cartoonist Hossien Rezaye has spent years depicting life in Afghanistan through his drawings. He uses cartoons to process difficult emotions and events, providing a snapshot of the harsh reality of life in the country.

Hossien Rezaye is an Afghan cartoonist now residing in the Netherlands, after fleeing Kabul in the midst of the Taliban takeover in August last year. He has gained significant recognition for his work, winning the Excellence Award at the 10th International Cartoon Contest in Urziceni, Romania in 2016 and participating in the 5th International Cartoon Gathering in Cairo in 2018. He is also a member of the Cartoon Movement, an organization supporting cartoonists around the world, which was pivotal in arranging his evacuation out of Afghanistan. You can find more on his story here.

Return of the Taliban

The Taliban swept through Afghanistan in August 2021, with Afghan government forces folding upon their approach. As NATO forces withdrew, the Afghan army was left exposed and demoralized.

The return of the Taliban triggered a mass exodus from Afghanistan, with many fearing a return to life under the extremists. Rezaye himself was evacuated to the Netherlands.

An Afghan soldier looks at his watch as two bullets fly towards him – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
An Afghan soldier looks at his watch as two bullets fly towards him – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye

Hunger and the pandemic in Afghanistan

International aid previously made up 40% of Afghanistan's GDP and financed 80% of its budget. After the Taliban takeover in August 2021, the international community pulled all funding and froze billions of dollars of Afghanistan's assets abroad. The United Nations estimates that soon 97% of Afghans will be living below the poverty line.

'Hunger' – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
'Hunger' – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye


The outbreak of COVID-19 in Afghanistan has only added to the difficult situation in the country, with a collapsing health care system and a severe lack of funding.

COVID-19 and hunger in Afghanistan – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
COVID-19 and hunger in Afghanistan – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye

Torture of journalists

In September 2021, two journalists from the Kabul-based newspaper Etilaat Roz were brutally beaten in police custody after covering protests by women in the Afghan capital.

Journalists tortured in Kabul – drawing by Hossien Rezaye 2021 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
Journalists tortured in Kabul – drawing by Hossien Rezaye 2021 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye


The women had come out on the streets of Kabul to protest the lack of diversity in the newly formed government. Taliban fighters beat up journalists who tried to shed light on the issue and took foreign reporters to the police station.

Journalists as the only supporters of women's protests in Afghanistan – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
Journalists as the only supporters of women's protests in Afghanistan – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye

Women in Afghanistan

Despite Taliban officials insisting that this time things would be better for women, there is little evidence that this is going to be the case. The new all-male government has since prohibited most women and girls from returning to work or education, citing security concerns.

The Arc de Triomphe in a burka, symbolizing the situation of Afghan women under the Taliban rule. Drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
The Arc de Triomphe in a burka, symbolizing the situation of Afghan women under the Taliban rule. Drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye


On September 11, 2021, images appeared on social media of women wearing black robes holding signs in support of the Taliban in a lecture hall of Kabul University.

Pro-Taliban Afghan women attend lecture at Kabul university – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
Pro-Taliban Afghan women attend lecture at Kabul university – drawing by Hossien Rezaye | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye

Girls' education

Closing in on education for women and girls, preceded the Taliban takeover in August 2021. On May 8, 2021 there was an attack on the Sayed Ul-Shuhada school in Kabul, killing more than 50 people, most of them girls and young women. The school which had once been a place of hope, where underprivileged girls and boys studied became the site of one of the most deadly blasts specifically targeting girls' education.

Schoolgirls' books flying over their graves – drawing by Hossien Rezaye 2021 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye
Schoolgirls' books flying over their graves – drawing by Hossien Rezaye 2021 | Copyright: Hossien Rezaye


Girls' education is likely to face significant restrictions in Afghanistan, if it resumes at all. However Rezaye remains defiant, writing on his Instagram account "The Taliban will not be able to deprive girls of education because they live their education and I know they will write their own books".


 

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