When photographer Fatimah Hossaini began documenting the beauty and strength of Afghan women, she had no idea that their world would soon be upended. Today, her work is a reminder of what’s at stake — and the unwavering resilience of her subjects. Here, in her own words, is her story.

My grandparents left Afghanistan during the Soviet War, when my parents were kids, and migrated to Iran. I was born in Tehran, [the capital], and grew up there. Since high school, I was always looking to understand what it means to be an Afghan. I was carrying the name of Afghanistan within myself, but I had never been there. I didn’t know where Afghanistan was. I was challenged by my identity.

I was looking for any opportunity to go to Afghanistan and in 2013, I was able to take a trip through the University of Tehran, where I was studying photography. By 2015, I lived between Tehran and Kabul, and after graduation in 2018, I moved to Afghanistan completely.

“When I traveled to Afghanistan for the first time in 2013, I had to be with a man to take a taxi,” says Hossaini, who notes that had changed in more recent years. “I decided to invite this woman to sit in the taxi. She wanted to experience the freedom.”

Photography by Fatimah Hossaini

When I arrived in Kabul, I could see that there was so much beauty that no media was covering. They wanted to victimize the women of Afghanistan; to show them in burkas. I had photographed women in burkas before, too, because when I was in Iran, whenever I searched for information on the women of Afghanistan, it was all about restrictions.

But when I moved to Afghanistan myself, I could see that the new generation was so different. So I decided to tell the story of the women of Afghanistan. I invited different women to stand in front of my camera. I cannot say that everything was perfect then, but at least we had a part of democracy. Women could experience the freedom to go out in the streets. We had a space in the economy and politics and the arts, every part of society.

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