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Afghan women protest Taliban dress code amid seething gender war

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Many Afghan women took social media by storm defying Taliban's Islamic dress code for girl students and posted their pictures with their traditional clothes (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@RoxanaBahar1)

Many Afghan women took social media by storm defying Taliban's Islamic dress code for girl students. These Afghan women posted their pictures  with their traditional clothes by using hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes, #AfghanistanCulture, #AfghanWomen tags.

“This is Afghan culture and I am wearing a traditional Afghan dress,” says Dr. Bahar Jala, Founder of the First Gender Studies Program in Afghanistan sharing her picture. Jala was the one who started the campaign  with a handful of Afghan women residing in Afghanistan and abroad.

Another user  shared her picture in colourful traditional attire, slamming the Taliban's strict code of black burqa.

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

Last week, the Taliban announced new rules for female students, saying Afghan universities will be segregated by gender, and a new dress code will be introduced. Women were denied access to education during the Taliban's first reign of power but the group, in order to get international recognition, has been trying to convince the world  that they are reformed after regaining control of Afghanistan.

Despite the messages coming from the Taliban, there have been several protests from women calling for representation in the government and for women’s rights.Over a week ago dozens of women have been protesting  in the streets of Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and many cities against the all male Taliban regime. Protestors chanted, “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are together”, while one participant held a placard emblazoned with “No government is stable without the support of women”.

On the other hand, the Taliban organised hundreds of women wearing head-to-toe coverings in the auditorium of a Kabul university on Saturday holding signs in support of the Taliban and its strict interpretation of Islam, including separate education for men and women.

“The women also welcomed the scheme of separate classes for boys and girls in all universities and institutes and pledged that they would be working for strengthening the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan,” said the new education ministry of the Taliban government.

Shamsia Hassani, Afghanistan's first female street artist depicts Afghan women as they face renewed Taliban threats. After the Taliban took over Kabul, Hassani's social media account went silent for a few days. But now she has come roaring back. In one of her pictures, a lone girl in radiant blue carrying images of hope as dark, menacing gun-toting Taliban fighters loom over her.

In another picture, titled Death To Darkness, she has depicted the status of women under the Taliban’s regressive regime.

This is not just mere  graffiti, it is more a visual representation of what Afghan women go through. She has used her artworks to send powerful messages, pursuing her work of resistance despite looming danger. Her message is clear that choosing to wear the burqa or hijab is not the issue; women will not truly be free until they can speak for themselves, and be heard.

In her latest work Questioning The Radicalism, Shamsia Hassani has shown a girl among the burqa clad women- with uncovered face and a book in her hand.

 

“I believe there are many who forget all the tragedy women face in Afghanistan that is why I use my paintings as a means to remind the people. I want to highlight the matter in society, with paintings reflecting women in Burqas everywhere. And I try to show them bigger than what they are in reality, and in modern forms, shaped in happiness, movement, maybe stronger. I try to make people look at them differently,” says Shamsia Hassani.

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