Afghanistan, with Samira Kitman

Calligrapher and miniaturist Samira Kitman discovered art as a young woman, enabling her to travel the world before threats to her freedom and fear of violence forced her to flee her home. Hear her story in this special episode of ourĀ Conflict of Interest podcast.

Samira's Story

  • Before The War with Samira Kitman

    I always dreamed of travelling the world. But of all the countries I've visited, nowhere compares to Afghanistan - my home.

  • Samira Kitman comic, Panel 2

    My name is Samira Kitman, and I'm an artist. Although I'm Afghan, I spent my childhood in Pakistan as a refugee. We moved back to Afghanistan hopeful that life would be better.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 3

    I grew up in a part of Kabul built by the Russians in the 1980s. The buildings were all tall concrete blocks of flats. But it was home, and it was beautiful in its own way.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 4

    A local organisation helped me discover my love of art. My first project was making a paintbrush from cat hair - I was too scared, so I got my classmate to catch the cat for me!

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 5

    I started painting traditional Afghan calligraphy. There isn't much respect for artists here, but after a while my work started to get noticed.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 6

    Just like in my childhood dreams, I began to travel - from India to Dubai, Germany to America - showing the beauty of Afghan art and the power of Afghan women to the rest of the world.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 10

    At first, my father didn't approve of what I was doing. But the more recognition I received, the prouder he became. Now he's my biggest supporter!

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 7

    But then I started receiving threats from the Taliban, who were growing increasingly powerful again - phone calls, people following me, intimidating me in the street. I felt afraid and knew Afghanistan was no longer safe for me.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 8

    I live in London now and work as an artist. I haven't seen my family for 6 years, and every day I wish they were here with me... I try to stay hopeful about Afghanistan, but it's hard to remember a time before the war.

  • Samira Kitman comic, panel 11

    Afghanistan has been experiencing conflict and instability since the 1970s, following the Soviet invasion in 1979. The most recent conflict in the region began in 2001, following the September 11th attacks.

    After almost 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan, the US and other international forces withdrew in August 2021. The Taliban now controls Afghanistan.

    Although the most recent conflict is over, the country is experiencing a humanitarian crisis, with men, women and children facing extreme hunger and destitution.

Part of Conflict of Interest podcast

  • Conflict of Interest podcast graphic

    Before The War is part of Conflict of Interest, a podcast unpicking the world's most complex conflicts.

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The IWM Institute is Imperial War Museums' innovation centre, experimenting with creative new ways of deepening understanding of war and conflict.