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Afghan women hit back at Taliban with "DoNotTouchMyClothes" campaign

September 14, 2021 7:44 am
The social media campaign was started by Dr Bahar Jalali [Source: DR BAHAR JALALI via BBC]

Afghan women have started an online campaign to protest against the Taliban’s strict new dress code for female students.

Using hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture, many are sharing pictures of their colourful traditional dresses.

The BBC’s Sodaba Haidare spoke to the woman who sparked this social media fightback.

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Type “Afghan traditional clothes” into Google and you will be overwhelmed at the sight of multi-coloured cultural dresses. Each one is unique, with handmade embroidery and heavy designs, small mirrors placed carefully around the chest, skirts long and pleated, perfect for twirling during “Attan” or Afghanistan’s national dance. Some women sport embroidered hats, others wear heavy headpieces, depending on which region of Afghanistan they come from.

A scaled-back version of similar dresses was worn every day by women going to university or their place of work in the past 20 years. Sometimes the trousers were replaced by jeans and the scarves were draped on their heads instead of over the shoulders.

But the pictures of women in long, fully veiled black abayas, covering their faces and hands, and rallying in Kabul over the weekend to support the “Taliban order” have been a huge contrast.

In one video, the women holding a pro-Taliban rally in the capital were seen saying Afghan women wearing make-up and in modern clothes “do not represent the Muslim Afghan woman” and “we don’t want women’s rights that are foreign and at odds with sharia” – referring to the strict version of Islamic law supported by the Taliban.

Afghan women around the world were quick to hit back.

Joining a social media campaign started by Dr Bahar Jalali, a former history professor at the American University in Afghanistan, they used hashtags such as #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture to reclaim their traditional clothes.

Ms Jalali says she started the campaign because “one of my biggest concerns is Afghanistan’s identity and sovereignty is under attack”.

Posting a picture of herself on Twitter in a green Afghan dress, she urged other Afghan women to share theirs to show “the true face of Afghanistan”.

“I wanted to inform the world the attires that you’ve been seeing in the media [referring to those worn by women at the pro-Taliban rally] that’s not our culture, that’s not our identity,” she said.

Many were taken aback by the way the women had dressed at the pro-Taliban rally; the nib and hand coverings are seen as a foreign concept to many Afghans who are used to the colourful, kaleidoscopic traditional dresses.

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