Social media campaign showcases colorful Afghan clothing

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After seeing photos of Afghan women dressed in black and veiled on their faces at a pro-Taliban rally in Kabul, Bahar Jalali, an Afghan-American historian, launched a campaign showcasing the vibrant colors of traditional Afghan dresses .
“I was very scared that the world would think the clothes these women wore in Kabul were traditional Afghan clothes, and I don’t want our heritage and our culture to be distorted,” said Jalali, who lives in Glenwood, in Maryland, about an hour’s drive from Washington.
Jalali, 46, created the quickly popular social media hashtags #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture, with women posting pictures of themselves wearing colorful and embroidered Afghan clothing and smiling for the camera.
“Afghan women do not wear hijabs,” Jalali told AFP.
“We wear a loose chiffon scarf that reveals the hair. And anyone who knows the history and culture of Afghanistan knows that the clothes worn by these women have never been seen before in Afghanistan, ”she said, referring to the protesters at the pro-Taliban protest. at an academic conference in Kabul earlier this month.
About 300 women – covered in black from head to toe in accordance with strict new dress policies for women in education under the Taliban – waved Taliban flags, as speakers protested against the West and expressed support to Islamists.
“Afghan women don’t dress that way. Afghan women wear the colorful dresses that we have shown to the world, ”Jalali said.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan were severely curtailed under Taliban control from 1996 to 2001, but since their return to power last month, they have said they would apply a less extreme rule.
Women will be allowed to attend university, provided that classes are separated by gender or at least separated by a curtain, and that women must wear an abaya and a niqab.
Jalali moved to the United States at the age of seven.
She remembers secular Afghanistan, with some women wearing short skirts and sleeveless dresses on the streets of Kabul, while others choose to wear a headscarf.
In 2009, Jalali returned to Afghanistan to teach history and gender studies at the American University in Kabul, in what was the country’s first gender studies program.
After 8.5 years there, she returned to the United States and now teaches Middle Eastern history at Loyola University in Maryland.
“My students were very passionate about gender equality, male and female,” she recalls. “So I really can’t imagine how this new generation of Afghanistan who has never witnessed Taliban rule, who grew up in a free and open society, will be able to adapt to this dark period in which the ‘Afghanistan has now entered. “

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