The war rugs of Afghanistan

The prelude

Afghan trade in war rugs booming

3 min 50 sec

Every time there is war in a region, the locals look for ways to ease their frustration in an effort to remain hopeful. Afghanistan has been at war for a long time and while most people are aware of the United States invasion in 20011, the Soviet Union occupied the region in 19792. The Middle East region is renowned for its creative rug art, and this trade was popular among women.

How war changed the designs of rugs

Up until the dawn of the 1980s, Afghanistan rug makers would dramatically alter the designs of the rugs. Instead of flowers, tanks, airplanes and rocket launchers would comprise the basic design of the rugs. Even though these new-age rug designs would be symbolic of hard and trying times, they would be among the richest art forms due to times of war.

The history of rugs in Afghanistan

Women practiced the art of rug making in Afghanistan for centuries past. As it became popular among the nomadic tribes, it was not long before various tribes took it up as an activity they would do with their hands. The presence of the Pazyryk3 rug believed to have been made in the 4th century B.C. is evidence of this deep-rooted tradition.

Why the rugs were initially made

The rugs were used as a medium to preserve patterns and lessons as experienced by the artist. This inspiration made art pieces depicting life around them, which led to the rug images changing following the invasion of Soviet forces.

Sharia law & what it prohibited

The rugs of war are a way for Afghanistan women to voice their free will to the world. It so happened that after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan and before the United States invasion, the Sharia law was instituted. This came with a strict code of conduct for women, which meant that they would be confined. Sharia law also prohibited using some images in war rugs, which meant that animate images like animals, birds, and people could no longer be used on the painting.


It is reported that the rugs have sparked an underground movement in artistic circles. As those rug makers who live outside the Afghanistan region would keep making art of any image they wanted, the Afghan weavers would use their work to communicate to the world, having the chance to mirror what is happening around them.



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