KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — A new online campaign by Afghan women to protest the Taliban’s new strict dress code for female students is currently underway.
This follows a pro-Taliban rally over the weekend in Kabul which saw about 300 women attending to show support for the Taliban’s new universities policies.
Most of the women who attended the rally were seen clad in black abayas along with burqas covering most of their faces.
— Dr. Bahar Jalali (@RoxanaBahar1) September 12, 2021
However, a former history professor from the American University in Afghanistan, Bahar Jalali, has started a social media campaign to oppose these new policies.
Speaking to BBC News, Jalali said the move to start the campaign came as she felt the policies are an “attack to Afghanistan’s identity and sovereignty”.
Jalali has since tweeted a photo of her dressed in a traditional green Afghan dress while urging other local women to join her in showing the true face of the country by sharing photos of themselves wearing their traditional outfits on social media.
There are a variety of traditional dresses in Afghanistan as each region has its own design but all of them share a common theme which are colourful, mirrors and embroidery.
The campaign also uses the hashtags #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture.
“I wanted to inform the world the attire 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.
She added that many local women were baffled by the outfits worn by the women at the rally as many Afghans are used to their colourful traditional dresses.
Jalali’s tweet has garnered over 21,000 likes and has been retweeted over 2,000 times with other Afghan women from all over the world can be seen joining the online campaign.
— Spozhmay Maseed (@spozhmey) September 12, 2021
According to Virginia-based rights activist Spozhmay Maseed, Afghanistan has been an Islamic country for centuries and their elders have been dressing modestly in their traditional outfits instead of the made-up blue “chadari” and the black burqas.
Maseed has also joined in the online campaign by tweeting a photo of her clad in a traditional Afghan dress.
“This is our Afghan authentic dress. Afghan women wear such colourful and modest attires. The black burqa has never been part of Afghan culture.
“Our traditional clothes represent our rich culture and history of 5,000 years which makes every Afghan feel proud of who they are,” Maseed said.
Afghan researcher and the founder of a women’s association in Afghanistan, Lima Halima Ahmad said that the Afghan culture is an art, and they have their own beauty and identity which are not to be defined by some terrorist group.
“As someone who lived and worked in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, women had a choice.
“My mother wore a long and big veil, and some women choose to wear smaller ones. Dress codes were not enforced on women.
“We are Afghan women and we have not seen stuff like that where you are fully covered, with some kind of black shadow uniform that you are wearing black gloves, your eyes are not even seen — it looked like it (was) ordered specifically for that exhibit,” she said referring to the pro-Taliban rally.
Attan is #Afghanistan’s national dance performed in group circles.
I painted this Attan as this is how I remember Afghan women while growing up.
— Malali Bashir (@MalaliBashir) April 15, 2021
An Afghan journalist based in Prague, Malali Bashir, also joined in the Twitter campaign by sharing her painting of Afghan women in traditional dresses.
“A burqa, either black or blue, was never a norm and women wore their Afghan cultural dresses. Older women wore a black head covering and younger ones wore colourful shawls. Women greeted men by shaking hands.
“Recently, there’s an increasing amount of pressure on Afghan women to change their cultural attire and fully cover themselves or disappear from public view.
“I posted my picture and reshared one of my paintings in which Afghan women are wearing our cultural dresses and dancing the national dance of Afghanistan called ‘Attan’,” she said.
Previously, it was stated by the Taliban officials that women in Afghanistan are able to work and study under the Sharia law.
According to the Afghanistan Higher Education Minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, universities will be segregated, and veils will be made mandatory to all female students.