Afghan women who use fashion to challenge the Taliban


Kabul-born fashion designer Anjilla Seddeqi has long drawn inspiration for her formal wear collections from the bright, intricate and embellished traditional garments of Afghan women.

But now, with the Taliban returning to power, she and other Afghan immigrant women are standing up for the rich sartorial heritage of their home countries to protest a new dress code for female students and help women affected by the movement’s return. .

Read also : For Afghan refugees in Delhi, news from Kabul reopens wounds

“I feel like what the Taliban are trying to do is eradicate Afghan women from mainstream society and then eradicate our culture as well. And that’s part of our dress,” he said. said Seddeqi, 39, by phone from Australia, where she moved as a child.

“They have to be called out all the time… Silence is not an option,” said Seddeqi, whose bold and colorful evening wear designs are cut in brocade and silk.

Since coming to power in mid-August, Taliban officials have sought to persuade the world that they had changed since their harsh fundamentalist regime of 1996-2001, when women had to cover themselves from head to toe.

They say women will be able to study and work outside the home, but the new higher education minister said earlier this month that female students should adhere to an Islamic dress code, including the religious hijab veil.

It was not clear whether this meant scarves or mandatory face coverings.

Soon after, Afghan women living outside the country began posting photos online of themselves wearing bright traditional dresses, with their hair and faces uncovered.

“I think any kind of expression through fashion is going to be very, very limited,” Seddeqi said of the commission for the students. “Afghan women will have to obey a standard dress code. That’s what this signals to me.”

Seddeqi, who trained as a lawyer before pursuing a career in fashion, said she has always sought to showcase the design and textile traditions of a country that is rarely the subject of wholesale. positive headlines in global media.

“All people have seen in the West is war and destruction, so for me there was a purpose to show another side of Afghanistan, the human face, the culture and the traditions.”

Afghanistan is one of the largest producers of cashmere wool in the world, according to the Business of Fashion research group, and many Afghans work as skilled craftsmen in embroidery and beadwork.

Western fashion

Afghan-born fashion designers are also putting their skills to work for Afghan refugees and those still living in Afghanistan.

As London marks fashion week, which runs through Tuesday, Anglo-Afghan designer Marina Khan plans to hold a charity sale of clothing and accessories from her brand Avizeh, which mixes vintage pieces with stylish clothing and accessories. new models.

Khan, 29, born in London to Afghan parents, said she hoped Avizeh would encourage young women of Afghan descent to embrace their heritage.

“In the beginning, it took a lot of courage for a lot of people to start wearing the local clothes. Now a lot of girls have kind of got it back, ”she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She said women’s clothing should not be controlled by men, but added that the many Afghan women who prefer to wear a veil should have their choice respected. Traditional Afghan dresses are also modest and revealing, she noted.

Khan also tapped her business for community support work, like teaching Afghan refugee women how to start a business and promote themselves online.

Like Seddeqi, she also hopes to work with more female artisans in Afghanistan as they face increasingly reduced opportunities to work under the new Taliban government.

There are reports of women being fired from their jobs at home and many fear a repeat of the Islamist regime of the 1990s.

However, Seddeqi said it gave her “a lot of hope” to see Afghan women inside and living abroad protesting efforts to curtail their rights and restrict their freedoms.

In a patriarchal society, fashion offers women a precious chance for expression and visibility, she said.

“I am really happy to see other Afghan women arguing that what is imposed by the Taliban is not traditional dress,” Seddeqi said of the virtual campaign under hashtags including #DontTouchMyDress.

“It’s a form of resistance.

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