#DoNotTouchMyClothes: Afghan Women's Powerful Campaign Against Taliban Dress Code

After returning to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a new dress code for women in colleges and private universities.

#DoNotTouchMyClothes: Afghan Women's Powerful Campaign Against Taliban Dress Code

Afghan women are sharing photos of themselves in colourful traditional dresses.

Women in Afghanistan have started an online campaign to protest against the Taliban's strict new dress code for female students. Afghan women have been sharing photos of themselves in colourful traditional dresses as part of the social media fightback against the Taliban and its hardline laws for women. The photos are being shared with hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanCulture to emphasise the fact that traditional Afghan clothes are a far cry from the conservative dress code that the Taliban has mandated for women students. 

After returning to power, the Taliban announced a new dress code for women in colleges and private universities. According to the document issued by the Taliban-run Education Ministry on September 5, women students, teachers and staff must wear an abaya and niqab that covers the hair, body, and most of the face, reports local news website Gandhara. The clothes must be black and women must also wear gloves to cover their hands. 

The #DoNotTouchMyClothes campaign emerged as a response to a Taliban-organised demonstration at Kabul University in which over 300 women, wearing all-black garments that covered their faces, announced that they supported the group and its decision to exclude women from high-ranking government positions.

"I wanted to inform the world the attires 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," Dr Bahar Jalali, a former history professor at the American University in Afghanistan and founder of the campaign, told BBC.

Ms Jalali shared a picture of herself in a green outfit on Twitter and wrote: "This is Afghan culture. I am wearing a traditional Afghan dress. #AfghanistanCulture."

Hundreds of Afghan women have joined the campaign to protest against the Taliban's policies.

"I am joining my fellow Afghan women who have started an online campaign to condemn the Taliban's dress code!" one woman wrote on Twitter.

"While I will always a support a woman's choice in attire, including the niqqab, I agree that dressing in black from head to toe is not #AfghanistanCulture Our clothes are vibrant, colourful and rich," another said.

Peymana Assad, who is the first person of Afghan origin to be elected to public office in the UK, also took part in the campaign.

Ms Jalali says she started the campaign because of "concerns that Afghanistan's identity and sovereignty is under attack".

While different regions of Afghanistan have different traditional costumes, bright colours, embroidery and mirror work feature prominently in almost all of them. 

When last in power between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban had banned women from the workplace, stopped them from leaving the home unaccompanied by a male relative and forced them to wear an all-covering burqa in public. The group has been trying to project a more moderate image this time, but it recently replaced the Ministry of Women's Affairs with Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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