‘Don’t touch my clothes’: Afghan women rebel against strict Taliban dress code

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Afghan women around the world have been taking part in a campaign on social media to protest the new Taliban dress code for female students. They have been sharing photos of themselves wearing colorful traditional Afghan dresses using hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture.

The kaleidoscopic traditional dresses that women have been posting stand in stark contrast to the head-to-toe black robes worn by women demonstrating in Kabul to support the gender policies of the Taliban on Saturday, September 11. While the Taliban have only said that female students should observe the hijab, without elaborating, the black robe raised fears that mandatory head-to-toe wear will be reintroduced.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke with Dr. Bahar Jalali, a former history professor at the American University of Afghanistan who started the #DoNotTouchMyClothes campaign, as well as other Afghan women who have joined the clothing protest.

‘The Taliban’s seizure of power is an attack on our national identity’

I posted a photo of myself wearing traditional Afghan clothing and encouraged other Afghans around the world to do the same because I know the images are very powerful. It became fashionable very quickly. A lot of people participated, which I think really speaks to the sense of urgency about what is happening in Afghanistan.

The takeover of power by the Taliban is an attack on our national identity. I’m really worried about what’s going to happen to the Afghan culture, so when I saw those women [at the pro-Taliban rally] Wearing clothes that I had never seen in Afghanistan before, I didn’t want the world to think that this is who we are, that this is our culture, that this represents Afghanistan in some way. I felt it was vital to use the power of images to try to overshadow that wrong image with something that represents the real Afghanistan.

Over the past four decades, many educated people have left Afghanistan, so all of us outside the country have to take responsibility for informing, educating and combating misinformation about what Afghan culture is. We will continue our campaign to save Afghan culture: it is going to be much more than clothing and we are going to take it on a much broader scale.

Afghanistan’s various ethnic groups’ all have [their] possess unique clothing and traditional attire ‘

Each ethnic group and region in Afghanistan has its own traditional clothing. Despite this diversity, they all share a common theme: lots of color. We spoke to Homira Rezai, an activist for members of the long-persecuted Hazara minority. Rezai fled Afghanistan with her family when she was 13 and now lives in London.

Afghanistan is a very diverse country with more than 14 ethnic groups. We all have our own unique clothes and traditional outfits, and none of them are what the Taliban want women to wear.

The clothes Hazara women wear are very colorful. Our colors are blue, green, yellow, white. They are sewn by hand and are passed down from generation to generation. We usually wear these clothes for special occasions as it takes a long time to make. I participated in the campaign to say that these are our traditional clothes and it is what we want them to represent us, not the black clothes.

I hope that the women in Afghanistan will resist the alien clothes brought in by the Taliban. I have not seen any of my relatives wear those black clothes, so they still resist in Afghanistan. But I’m not sure how long that will last because we know for a fact that the Taliban will use violence to implement their laws and regulations.

‘We are trying to expand the needs of local women as much as we can’

Most of the women who have participated in the online campaign are outside of Afghanistan. Layma Murtaza, an Afghan-American humanitarian aid professional, told the Observer team that while there may be confusion on the part of locals about the aim of the campaign, they were doing everything they could to fight for the rights of local women. and amplify their voices:

Through this campaign, we are saying, ‘Don’t take away our culture that we have had for thousands of years.’ That is really important. It is not always easy for people on the ground to be able to do this.

I am sure that there are criticisms from the locals who wonder what is the meaning of this action when there is a humanitarian aid situation. But in addition to trying to raise funds and bring help, we are fighting for women’s rights to express themselves.

There is nothing wrong with showing the world that we want to maintain our unique identity. We do not need to follow the Deobandi school of Islam that the Taliban follow, because it is not us. We are here out of the country trying to represent local women and expand their needs as much as we can.

‘Women no longer have a choice is the main problem’

Frishta Kargar is a former Finance Ministry official who fled to Poland on August 20, 2021. She told us that although social pressure forced women to dress conservatively in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, they still They had a choice, especially in major cities like Kabul or Herat.

We fought for women’s rights in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over. We wanted to be free, we didn’t want to cover ourselves, we wanted to talk. We kept fighting. In Kabul, there were some very modern women. But in the field, there were still many women who could not speak and who did not have the right to go out. In an instant, we lost everything, we lost the fight.

The traditional blue burqa, also known as a chadori, has been something that people have worn in the regions and even in Kabul for hundreds of years. It is a garment that originally comes from Pakistan and India. It was something some women felt protected by, helping them feel anonymous on the streets. It was a choice or something that became normal in their families. But imposing the chadori is the main issue, so that women no longer have a choice. That is why this campaign is so important, showing our colors and fighting for our choice.

We Afghan women don’t know who those women are [at the pro-Taliban rally] they are, we don’t know where they come from and why they wear those clothes. The images on social networks of women with clothes that cover their faces, hands and feet are only a mockery of women.

On Sunday, September 12, Taliban officials said universities will be segregated and dress rules will apply for female students. Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani said that “according to sharia, they must observe the veil,” although he did not specify whether this would mean headscarves or mandatory face covering.


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