LONDON – Afghan women in Canada and around the world are posing online in colorful traditional dresses to protest the Taliban’s strict new clothing requirements for women in schools.

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Based on its interpretation of Sharia law, the Taliban recently ordered all classes to be segregated by gender, and mandated that all female students and teachers wear the hijab. On Saturday, photos on social media even showed a group of female students at the government-run university in Kabul wearing fully long black robes and waving Taliban flags.

But many people in Canada with Afghan heritage say their own traditional clothing looks nothing like it.

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“This is not who we are,” Nilo Mansouri, an Afghan-Canadian activist and law student in Toronto, said in a phone interview with Granthshala.ca.

“The people under the Taliban regime have taken religion and exported it into something absolutely disgusting,” she said. “Afghanistan is a country of colour. If I may reference Harry Potter it’s not long, dark, grim Dementors-like clothes.”

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Mansoori is among thousands of Afghans who are sharing photos of themselves in vibrant, multicolored formal clothes using the hashtag #.do not touch my clothes And #Afghanistan culture.

While each tribe and region is unique, the traditional dress is known for its intricate, hand-stitched embroidery; wide headpiece; long pleated skirt; And clothes lined with bells, beads and tiny mirrors — all of which stand out when people sway in a traditional dance called “Attan.”

“Black shrouds do not represent Afghan culture,” Dr. Fatima Kakkar, who teaches pediatrics at the University of Montreal, said in an email to Granthshala.ca. She wore a lime green outfit with a purple top in her tweeted picture.

“It is important that the world sees what traditional Afghan clothes really are. Their beauty, workmanship, vibrant colors represent the country and its heritage,” said Kakkar. “Every Afghan woman I know wears her traditional Afghan dress. cherishes and wears it with pride. So it was important to strengthen it visually.”

Mansoori explained that much of the traditional fabric in migrant clothing comes directly from female embroiderers in Afghanistan. She described the social media campaign as a small but public way to “stand in solidarity” with women facing persecution and increasing sanctions in Afghanistan.

The former Afghan history teacher started it all

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

She posted it using the hashtag #AfghanistanCulture, and The next day, she used #DoNotTouchMyClothes for another photo of her. “We will not allow our culture to be appropriated by those who want to eradicate us,” she wrote.

In the days that followed, many Afghans, mostly women, followed his lead on Twitter and Instagram.

“This campaign demonstrates resilience, recognition and defiance against an unelected, imposed rule,” Mina Sharif, a Toronto-area Afghan activist, told Granthshala.ca in an email.

“Clothes are not a priority in a country that is at risk of experiencing Afghanistan, but they are a universal symbol of expression and one we deserve to reflect our identity.”

Sharif was raised in Canada, but started a girl counseling program in Afghanistan and worked with women-led radio stations from 2005 to 2019.

“I met strong powerful women from urban and rural communities – women dressed in modest, colorful clothes in a variety of culturally diverse designs,” she said. Over the past 20 years, aspects of more formal dress have culminated in the lightweight headscarf, jeans and everyday clothing of women working in offices or schools.

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

Photo is also necessary for government action: Advocate

“There is a clear ethnic and cultural cleansing going on in Afghanistan right now,” said Tahmina Aziz, a Victoria-based journalist and member of the organization. Canada’s Campaign for Afghan Peace (CCAP) told Granthshala.ca in a phone interview.

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

Aziz posted a picture of himself in a white and red embroidered dress that he and the advocate have been working on for months.

He and the CCAP are pressing the Canadian government to broaden the special immigration program to resettle more Afghans, provide more immediate humanitarian aid, and advocate for protecting the rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities.

In recent weeks, political science experts and Afghan families in Canada have also noted that many ethnic minorities, particularly Hazara Afghans and Sikh and Hindu populations, are at risk of persecution and even death if they live in Afghanistan. . Some have tried to escape but many are stranded in the country.

Although federal party leaders in Canada have made various pledges regarding Afghanistan, Mansouri hopes campaigns like #DoNotTouchMyClothes will help keep post-election Afghanistan in a well-minded state.

“The Afghan people have contributed greatly to the social fabric of Canada today, whether through education, work or other means,” she said.

“So this is not just a crisis for the Afghan people, but it is a crisis for everyone around the world.”