Soraya Shahidy trained in tattooing in Iran and Turkey but takes pride in challenging stereotypes and practicing her craft in her home country. Although most Afghans believe tattoos are forbidden by Islam, she points out the difference in opinion on this matter between religious clergy. Afghan and Pukhtoon tribes have historically practiced minimalist tattooing in the form of the traditional Sheen Khaal, so the craft itself is not completely alien to the culture. However, the modern and contemporary form of tattoo art practiced by Soraya is not widely accepted, even when men practice it. She describes the designs preferred by modern youth as extravagant.

Soraya chooses to continue her work as the sole Afghan female tattooist because she believes it is not a gendered profession and women are just as capable. The 27-year-old caters to both male and female clients and operates in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. She says that the demand for tattoos in Kabul is small, but growing. Although she recognizes the possibility of the Taliban gaining power once again, she says that the Afghans will not give up their hard-earned freedoms so easily.


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