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“Hands off my clothes”: Afghans denounce Taliban dress codes by posing in traditional attire

LONDON – Afghan women in Canada and around the world pose online in colorful traditional dresses to counter the Taliban’s tough new demands on women’s clothing in schools.

Based on their interpretation of Sharia law, the Taliban recently ordered all classrooms to be segregated based on gender and demanded that all students and teachers wear the hijab. On Saturday, photos on social media even showed a group of female students fully dressed in long black dresses and waving Taliban flags at the government university in Kabul.

But many people of Afghan descent in Canada say their own traditional clothing is nothing like this.

“This is not who we are,” Neelo Mansuri, an Afghan-Canadian activist and law student in Toronto, said in a telephone interview with

“The people of the Taliban regime have taken religion and exported it to something completely despicable,” she said. “Afghanistan is a country of color. Not that long, dark, sinister garment like a Dementor, if I can make a reference to Harry Potter.

Mansuri is among thousands of Afghans who share photos of themselves dressed in vibrant, multi-colored formal wear, using the hashtags #Don’t Touch My Clothes and #AfghanistanCulture.

While each tribe and region is unique, traditional clothing is known for its intricate hand-sewn embroidery; detailed headdresses; long pleated skirts; and fabric edged with bells, pearls and tiny mirrors, all of which stand out when people spin around in a traditional dance called ‘attan’.

“Black shrouds do not represent Afghan culture,” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, who teaches pediatrics at the University of Montreal, in an email to She was wearing a lime green dress with a purple top embroidered in her tweeted photo.

“It is important for the world to see what traditional Afghan clothing really is. Their beauty, workmanship, vibrant colors represent the country and its heritage, ”Kakkar said. “All the Afghan women I know cherish their traditional Afghan dress and wear it with pride. So it was important to reinforce this visually.

Mansuri explained that many traditional clothes worn by members of the diaspora come directly from Afghan embroiderers. She called the social media campaign a modest but public means of “showing solidarity” with women facing increasing oppression and restrictions in Afghanistan.


The avalanche of photos online began on Saturday when Bahar Jalali, a former professor of history at the American University of Afghanistan, tweeted a photo of herself in a bright green Afghan dress with flowers embroidered on a red background .

She posted it using the hashtag #AfghanistanCulture, and the the next day she used #DoNotTouchMyClothes for another pic of her. “We will not let our culture take over those who want to erase us,” she wrote.

In the days that followed, many Afghans, mostly women, followed her example on Twitter and Instagram.

“This campaign reflects resilience, identity and mistrust against an imposed unelected rule,” Toronto-area Afghan activist Mina Sharif told in an email.

“Clothing is not a priority in a country facing what Afghanistan risks going through, but it is a universal symbol of expression and we deserve to reflect our identity.”

Sharif grew up in Canada, but started a girls’ mentoring program in Afghanistan and worked with female-run radio stations from 2005 to 2019.

“I have met strong and powerful women in both urban and rural communities – modestly dressed women in bright colors in a variety of culturally diverse models,” she said. Over the past 20 years, aspects of more ceremonial attire have found their way into lightweight scarves, jeans and everyday wear for women going to work in offices or schools.

“We ask the world to remember that we are a people who deserve to live on our own terms and speak for ourselves. “


“There is an apparent ethnic and cultural cleansing taking place in Afghanistan right now,” Tahmina Aziz, a Victoria-based reporter and member of the Canadian Campaign for Peace in Afghanistan (CCAP), told during of a telephone interview.

“The beautiful and diverse tapestry that we had is disappearing day by day,” she said. “Afghanistan is known for its poetry, for its food, its sport, its art and its music… and we have seen these heartbreaking images of destroyed instruments and women partially banned from sport.

Aziz posted a photo of herself in a white and red embroidered dress to draw attention to the work she and her advocates have been doing for months.

She and CCAP pushed the Canadian government to expand the special immigration program to help resettle more Afghans, provide more immediate humanitarian assistance, and defend the rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities.

In recent weeks, political scientists and Afghan families in Canada have also noted that many ethnic minorities, especially Hazara Afghans and the Sikh and Hindu populations, are at risk of persecution and even death if they stay behind. Afghanistan. Some have tried to flee but many remain stuck in the country.

Although federal party leaders in Canada have made various promises regarding Afghanistan, Mansuri hopes campaigns like # Don’tTouchNotMyClothes will help keep Afghanistan front and center long after the election.

“The Afghans of today have made so many contributions to the fabric of Canada, whether through education, work or otherwise,” she said.

“So it’s not just a crisis for the Afghan people, but it’s a crisis for everyone in the world.”


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