At home in northern Afghanistan, 19-year old Khushi draws a self-portrait -- a figure enveloped by a blue burqa inside a cage. She once attended classes in law and political science at northern Balkh province's main university but the Taliban closed universities to women in December 2022, after closing most girls' high schools and ordering most Afghan female humanitarian workers not to work. Art studios are the only place left where girls can catch up with old friends and make new ones. Khushi’s psychiatrist used to see four to five patients a day but says that has now increased to 10 to 15 daily, most of them women. In a small, colorful art studio in Balkh's capital Mazar-i-Sharif, several young women, including Khushi, gather for a pencil drawing class. Many have been sent here at the recommendation of a mental health expert to ease their isolation and learn a new skill, alongside talk therapy and medication.

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