When women appeared at a pro-Taliban rally in Kabul, many people around the world were shocked to see their long, fully veiled black abayas, which covered their faces and hands. Social media users pointed out that their attire was neither Islamic, nor Afghan. They pointed out that most Afghans are used to colourful traditional dresses, with mirrors and embroidery.
But the clothes worn by the pro-Taliban women was not merely a question of choice; they also represented pushback against the women of Afghanistan who have been protesting against the Taliban rule in the country.
During the pro-Taliban women’s rally, the demonstrators said the Afghan women who wore make-up and dressed in modern clothes did “not represent the Muslim Afghan woman” and “we don’t want women’s rights that are foreign and at odds with sharia.”
In response, Afghan women started an online campaign to protest the Taliban’s new dress code for female students. Using hashtags DoNotTouchMyClothes and AfghanistanCulture, many women started sharing pictures of their colorful traditional dresses.
The campaign was started by Dr Bahar Jalali, a former history professor at the American University in Afghanistan. Jalali told BBC that she started the campaign “because Afghanistan’s identity and sovereignty was under attack.”
She posted a picture of herself on Twitter in a green Afghan dress and urged other women to share theirs to show “the true face of Afghanistan.”
“I wanted to inform the world the attire [worn by the pro-Taliban women] is not our identity,” she said.
“This is another traditional Afghan dress from a different part of Afghanistan,” wrote Bahar as she shared another photograph of herself. “I was a teenager in this picture. We will not let our culture to be appropriated by those who want to erase us.”
Shafi Karimi, a journalist shared a photograph of his wife, and wrote “My wife is wearing traditional Afghan attire in Bamyan. This is Afghan culture and this is how Afghan women dress.”
Wida Karim, an actress, shared her photographs and wrote, “In protest to the Taliban’s dress code, I proudly share these photos in traditional Afghan attire. Vibrant, bright colors adorned with jewels.”