"They Killed Their Husbands. Now in Prison, They Feel Free." for The New York Times Magazine (2020)

Violence against women is rampant in Afghanistan. As a Persian saying goes, “a woman enters her husband’s house wearing white and leaves his house wearing white,” referring to the shroud that wraps the dead before burial. That very well could have been the fate of some of these women. Instead, they left in handcuffs and found peace, freedom and hope inside a prison.
This is the story of women who have pushed so far that they saw no other way out of abusive marriages but to murder their husbands. Many did to save their lives and their children lives.

18 months later, exclusively for my exhibit for Photoville 2020 (Brooklyn), I traced the women I photographed in the prison, to find out what happened to them after they appeared in the media. The outcome was unexpected and surprising. You can read about them on:

"Trapped" for Stern Magazine (2018)

As Afghanistan’s perpetual conflicts move into its fifth decade, a hidden epidemic of PTSD and other mental illnesses continues to ravage through Afghan society. Beyond that, the stress of upheaval and economic desperation has worsened the already rampant problems with domestic abuse and substance addiction. Experts estimate that 72% of Afghan women suffer from mild to severe mental illnesses despite often being removed from the frontline. "Trapped" looks at the daily plight of these women as they pull through dark days.

"Single Mothers of Afghanistan" for Harpers Magazine (2016)

There is no word for “single mother” in the Pashto or Dari, the two major languages spoken throughout Afghanistan, yet after four decades of conflict— from the Soviet invasion to the war on terror— millions of women in Afghanistan are raising children on their own. These women are one of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable populations. Some have had to flee abusive spouses, others have lost their husbands in combat or terrorist attacks and some became pregnant before marriage and have been charged with “moral crimes.” Widows in particular are seen as morally suspect or symbols of bad luck; In a country where few women are literate or have ever worked outside the home, many widows are forced into remarriage, frequently to a brother of their late husband, and those who choose to remarry outside the family risk losing custody of their children. This is the tale of Single Mothers of Afghanistan told through photographs, a humane story picturing another side of life in a war torn country.

"Child Soldiers of Afghanistan" for CSI (2015)

Widespread use of children in armed conflict is one of the most awful trends in wars today. According to International Rescue Committee (IRC), an estimated 300,000 boys and girls are currently trained for combat or used as porters, spies or sex slaves around the world. They are compelled to become instruments of war, to kill or be killed, with devastating effects on their physical, emotional and social development. In Afghanistan, a country destabilized by 40 years of conflict, children continue to be recruited and used by both armed forces and armed groups. On a brief assignment for Child Soldier International (CSI), a UK-based human rights research and advocacy organization, a fellow Canadian journalist and I investigated the recruitment of children below age of 18 with the Afghan National Police (ANP), the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and other insurgency armed groups who have all been consistently listed as parties which recruit and use children since 2010.

*For the protection of the children pictured in this series, their identities have been concealed and their only identified by their initials.

Resilience Trilogy (2010-17)

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.
Iran, Afghanistan and Syria are three neighbouring countries with superficial similarities. All three countries, which are predominantly muslim with youth (under 35) accounting for more than 50% of the population, have experienced tumultuous recent histories, as a results of international intervention, economic struggles and barriers to progression as a result of socio-cultural norms.
The youth that make up the majority of these countries are those born between 1980 and 2000 - also referred to as ‘the millennials.’ Millennials across the region and similarly all over the world share similar characteristics and attitudes to their lives, politics and futures of their country. They are renowned for their resilience and optimism and are not behind sharing their voices through the use of internet and social media, ensuring the marginalised and vulnerable are not left behind. Another common pattern among these individuals is their adherence to freedom of speech and choice, ensuring they are not entangled with their cultural and religious beliefs. Attempting to accurate represent these realities, the youth in my photographs have strived to push through cultural and political boundaries and live a life other than what has been dictated to them by limiting culture or oppressive governments.

"May god be with you my daughter..." (2010-12)

In light of economic crisis and ongoing political oppression, the current wave of immigration out of Iran is now greater than at any point in history. There are no official numbers, but many Iranians have already left or are seeking a way out. Some pursue escape without even considering its consequences.

‘May god be with you my daughter…’ is the story of my own migration through the lives of other Iranian teenage girls who have taken the same path that I took years ago. Parmida,Parastou, Melika and Soheila, all immigrated in middle of their teenage years. Parmida and Soheila started this journey along with their parents and families, Parastou and Melika moved away on their own. Facing the battle of fitting into the new culture of their adopted home, this story captures the transformation and liberation of these girls at the age of 17. With the adult personality shaping up, an insecurity and self-consciousness now replaces the carefree world that the girls had lived in so far.
This passage from girlhood into adulthood, with all the complications it entails, takes place within a new culture and environment. The girls on the edge between two worlds try to come to terms with this transitional time in their lives and adjust to the people they are becoming. (Iran, Australia, Canada and United States)

Kiana Hayeri

Iranian-Canadian photographer, focusing on migration, identity and sexuality in societies dealing with oppression or conflict.
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