Following street demonstrations in major cities in Afghanistan, women have taken to social media to protest the Taliban’s hard-line policies towards them.
An online campaign has seen Afghan women around the world share photos of themselves wearing colorful traditional clothing, using the hashtag #DoNotTouchMyClothes.
The protest is a response to a demonstration organized by the Taliban at the University of Kabul, where some 300 women appeared in completely black clothing that covered their faces, hands and feet, the type of dress never before seen in the entire country.
Waving Taliban flags, the women said they supported militants who had announced that women would not be allowed to hold high-ranking government positions and that schools and universities should be segregated by gender.
Since the Taliban took over the capital, Kabul, they have established an all-male interim government with only a handful of Tajik and Uzbek representatives and no members of the Hazara ethnic minority.
The women’s affairs ministry is not part of the new regime, which has taken back the ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice, ensuring that sharia law is implemented throughout the country.
Many Afghan women, especially in urban centers, fear that their hard-won freedoms may be limited, recalling the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, which saw women largely confined to their homes.
Dr. Bahar Jalali, an Afghan historian and gender studies expert, posted the first photo with the hashtag #DoNotTouchMyClothes, which has since inspired Afghan women around the world.
Peymana Assad, the first person of Afghan origin to be elected to public office in the UK, she posted a photo of herself in colorful clothing and tweeted: “This is Afghan culture. My traditional dress “.
Sana Safi of the BBC, posting a similar photo, wrote: “So how do Afghan women dress then? That’s how. If you were in Afghanistan, you would have the headscarf. This is as ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’ as I / you can get. “
The musician Ariana Delawari shared a photo of her mother “with me in her womb,” she wrote, in traditional dresses and without a veil decades ago in Afghanistan.
Despite the Taliban’s announcement that further protests would only be allowed if approved by the justice ministry, the women of Kabul have pledged to continue their demonstrations.
Samira, a student at Kabul University, said this was her only way forward. “The Taliban are already beginning to limit women’s freedoms,” she said. “I have nothing to lose. Either I will lock myself inside my house, I will not be able to continue my education, or I will be able to fight. Even if I risk my life, even if I am killed, it is better than being silenced.”