Kabul Diaries Part 12: Afghan women are defying Taliban by posting colourful dresses

September 15, 2021
The campaign was started by Bahar Jalali, a historian, who posted her photos in traditional Afghan dress. Images: @RoxanaBaha1 and @M_IbrahimKall on Twitter

Posted on September 15, 2021:

The online campaign celebrating Afghan women’s traditional dress started after the Taliban introduced a strict dress code for female university students.

For centuries, Afghan women in rural areas have worn the traditional Afghan dress with vibrant colours, and each region of Afghanistan has had its characteristic style of sewing it. These dresses bright and colourful, in stark contrast to what the Taliban have introduced now, which is a head-to-toe black hijab with black gloves. 

Khatol Momand, who is a writer and satirist, posted a photo of herself in the traditional Afghan dress on Twitter, and wrote: “This is [the] women's outfit in my tribe of Momand. Don’t bring home extreme Arabic Hijab.”

The photos posted by Afghan women journalists and activists are in beautiful bright colours. Some are wearing the Pashtun traditional dress, some the Hazaragi traditional dress, while others have donned Badakhshi, Balouchi and Nourstani attires.

Sana Safi, a journalist at BBC, posted her photo on Twitter and wrote: “So how do Afghan women dress then? They ask. This is how. If I was in Afghanistan, then I would have the scarf on my head. This is as conservative and traditional as I/you can get.”

Peymana Assad posted on her Twitter: “This is Afghan culture. My traditional dress. Our cultural attire is not the dementor outfits the Taliban have women wearing.”

Spozhmay Maseed, a human rights activist, Tweeted: “This is our Afghan authentic dress. Afghan women wear such colourful and modest attires. The black burqa has never been a part of Afghan culture.”

Homira, a civil and human rights activist, has posted her photo along with a caption: “This is Hazaragi traditional clothes. The colourful Hazaragi dresses are from my culture. The long black hijab does not represent all women of Afghanistan.”

Maryam Stankazai has also posted a photo of herself on Twitter in a red and green traditional dress: “No one can reduce my existence to one colour. Not today, not tomorrow.”

Many women inside Afghanistan have reacted to the imposing of the black hijab.

Shazia (not their real name), a resident of Khairkhana, told me, “Our traditional dresses are bright and beautiful and represent the beauty of Afghanistan”.

Huma (not their real name), another resident of Khaira, says: “The previous Afghan government didn’t force women to dress in a particular way. We have dressed according to our traditional society. I have always covered my head with a scarf, but some women in my family were wearing the blue burqa.”

Waheeda (not their real name) added, “Nobody can impose the black hijab on Afghan women. The Taliban want to suffocate Afghan women with their strict dress codes. They want to dehumanize us, but we will not give in but rise like phoenix.”

Over the years, I have heard from my grandmother and others in the family that women in rural areas have always gone out and worked in the fields with only headscarves, while the traditional Afghan dress was reserved for special occasions such as weddings, Independence Days and so on.  

This campaign was started by Bahar Jalali, a historian. She was the first to post her photos in the traditional Afghan dress.

[Jeddojehad (Struggle), a left-wing, online Urdu-language daily in Pakistan, is posting reports from Kabul. Filed by Yasmeen Afghan (not the author's real name), these reports depict the picture from inside Kabul and cover what is often ignored in the mainstream media. For a wider circulation, these reports are translated to English.]

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