Afghan artist to open studio in Antrim ater seeking sanctuary in Northern Ireland

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A young woman from Afghanistan is set to open an art studio in Antrim after fleeing oppression in her native country.

Razieh Mirzaee has lived in Northern Ireland since arriving here in February 2023 alongside her brothers and sisters. The family previously lived in Iran, before settling in Antrim.

Moving to Northern Ireland has allowed Razieh the opportunity to be creative and make pieces of art, something she feels she would not be able to do under the Taliban’s regime.

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Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times, Razieh, who showcased some of her artwork recently at Garden Show Ireland 2024, stated: “I still have family in Iran and my mother's family is in Afghanistan. The regime does not allow rights for women and girls are not allowed to go to school. Music and arts are also forbidden and many people get punishment if caught doing these things.

Razieh Mirzaee.Razieh Mirzaee.
Razieh Mirzaee.

“I have always been interested in art and used to draw.

“I draw acrylic paintings on stones and pieces of wood and make them as decorative art or necklaces, earrings, et cetera and also I am interested in painting nature and animals on canvas.

“I love nature and animals and painting them brings me peace.

“Before migrating here, I had never received any support from any country or organization, whether in Iran or from Afghanistan. I did not think it was possible to be a woman artist.

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"However, now I have my first opportunity in life to showcase what I feel inside and have nurtured. It is like a dream come true for me.”

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The Antrim resident has received support from a number of locally-based agencies and bodies, including Beyond Skin.

Thanking everyone who has backed her, Razieh explained: “I am truly grateful for the support and kindness Darren at Beyond Skin, Joe at GemsNI, the Arts Council and local businesses and communities have shown me and I will never forget their generosity.

"I am a member of Alghochak (Afghan Association) and have participated in many of their events and celebrations, including some events such as charity events and gatherings of artists, craftspeople and multicultural communities in Belfast, where I was introduced to them by Extern charity.

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"In July I am invited to facilitate arts workshops at the WOMAD Festival in England founded by UK musician Peter Gabriel.

"My gallery shop will be opening soon in Antrim and I am very excited about all these things.

"I live in Antrim. I like it very much. The people here are truly kind and I hope they know this kindness is a triumph against the people who wish to cause Afghan women and artists so much pain.”

Darren Ferguson from Beyond Skin added: “I am so proud of Razieh, who with her family, has overcome so many challenges and wishes only to be safe and have the freedom to paint and choose.

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"Many people watching on television feel helpless regarding Afghanistan and conflict in other countries. Here is an example of what we can do on our doorstep. A welcome and helping hand to people seeking safety who can contribute so much to our society and economy with their skills."