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The protest took place right before International Women’s Day.
Since the Taliban took control in Afghanistan in the ’90s, Afghan women have been forced to wear burqas, a garment covering them head-to-toe with just a mesh window for their eyes. In anticipation of International Women’s Day on March 8, a group of men wearing burqas took to the streets to protest the unequal treatment of women in their country.
The activists were affiliated with a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers. “Our authorities will be celebrating International Women’s Day in big hotels, but we wanted to take it to the streets,” activist Basir, 29, told Reuters.”One of the best ways to understand how women feel is to walk around and wear a burqa.”
The men wore homemade blue burqas, which stood in sharp contrast to the gray skies and muddy streets. Journalist Zheena Nasari shared photos on Facebook of the men marching on the streets of Kabul.
In the photos, you can see the men carrying various signs, bearing the words “equality,” and “Don’t tell women what to wear, you should cover your eyes.”
While people across the world have praised the protest as a step in the right direction toward equality in Afghanistan, some witnesses were not as moved. The burqa has become so ingrained in Afghan culture that it seems some don’t see the sociopolitical implications of the protest. Many view wearing a burqa as an example of a respectful cultural tradition. One police officer told Reuters, “What’s the point of this? All of the women in my family wear burqas. I wouldn’t let them go out without one.”
The protest comes on the heels of another protest just last week by a female Afghan artist named Kabri Khademi. Khademi wore a suit of armor in public, which was intended as a commentary on the widespread street harassment in Kabul.
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Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.