Though women are expected to dress in burqas to cover themselves up fully, sexual harassment is rampant in Afghanistan. Artist Kubra Khademi wanted to protest – so she took to the busiest street in Kabul wearing a provocative suit of armour. The metallic armour accentuated her breasts and buttocks, a fiercely rebellious act in a deeply conservative society.
But Khademi’s walk in Koti Sangi lasted a mere eight minutes, for she soon had a trail of men following her, hurling insults and pelting stones. They even tried to grope and harass her through the steel armour. The situation escalated to a point where the men climbed and pounded on the car that Khademi escaped in.
They continued to send her obscene messages, doctored pornographic pictures, which soon turned into death threats, warning her that she was “a feminist activist who will be killed soon”. Khademi was forced to flee from her home, and still lives as a fugitive at an undisclosed location.
“We live in a patriarchal society, where women are seen as second-class citizens. When we complain about sexual harassment, men often say that if a woman wears a proper veil, nobody will bother her. But this is obviously false, since even women who wear a burqa get harassed in the streets,” Khademi said.
The performance artist, who is inspired by artists like Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramovic, faced harassment as a child and teenager. “I wish my underwear were made of iron,” she said.