Afghanistan's first female tattoo artist

Soraya Shahidy has left her permanent mark on the world…

as the first ever female tattoo artist in Afghanistan,

a country where many still believe that inking skin is a sin against Islam.

"Tattoos are not forbidden in Islam. Some mullahs say they are, but there are others who say the opposite. Some people tell me that my work is forbidden, but I don’t think so. I believe that tattoos are allowed, and for me, it’s more about preference, and that’s why I do it."

She learned the skill while living abroad as a refugee… but decided to return to Kabul to fill a gap in the market.

"I've received tattoo training in Turkey, and I also went through another professional training course in this field in Iran. I could have done this profession abroad, but I wanted to do it in Afghanistan because there were no female tattoo artists in the country. I believe not only men can apply tattoos, women can do it too."

Shahidy says women usually opt for designs such as flowers, butterflies, or names of their loved ones, and that interest in tattoos in general is growing among young people in the country, such as Najibullah Noorzard.

"Young people are interested in getting tattoos, especially the bodybuilders who are more in favor of them. Personally, I'm interested in having a tattoo on my body as it brings joy to a person's life."

Aside from tattooing, Shahidy also provides eyelash extensions and manicure services; all of which were banned during the Taliban's tough rule between 1996 and 2001.

Video Transcript

- Soraya Shahidy has left her permanent mark on the world as the first ever female tattoo artist in Afghanistan, a country where many still believe that inking skin is a sin against Islam.

NARRATOR: Tattoos are not forbidden in Islam. Some mullahs say they are, but there are others who say the opposite. Some people tell me that my work is forbidden, but I don't think so. I believe that tattoos are allowed. And for me, it's more about preference, and that's why I do it.

- She learned the skill while living abroad as a refugee, but decided to return to Kabul to fill a gap in the market.

NARRATOR: I received tattoo training in Turkey, and I also went through another professional training course in this field in Iran. I could have done this profession abroad, but I wanted to do it in Afghanistan because there were no female tattoo artists in the country. I believe not only men can apply tattoos, women can do it, too.

- Shahidy says women usually opt for designs such as flowers, butterflies, or names of their loved ones, and that interest in tattoos in general is growing among young people in the country, such as Najibullah Noorzard.

NARRATOR: Young people are interested in getting tattoos, especially the bodybuilders who are more in favor of them. Personally, I'm interested in having a tattoo on my body as it brings joy to a person's life.

- Aside from tattooing, Shahidy also provides eyelash extensions and manicure services, all of which were banned during the Taliban's tough rule between 1996 and 2001.