A group of men marched around the Afghan capital of Kabul Thursday wearing the characteristic blue burqa to show their solidarity with the country’s women, whose rights continue to be assailed. They call themselves the Afghan Peace Volunteers and said they held the protest ahead of the International Women’s Day on March 8, Reuters reported.
They carried signs that read “equality,” and said that wearing a burqa felt “like a prison.”
It’s been years since the oppressive rule of the Taliban forced Afghan women to wear the burqa, but they still face many challenges. Human Rights Watch says that high-profile women continue to be attacked and threatened as the government fails to offer adequate protection. And the Afghan parliament keeps trying to roll back “already fragile” legal safeguards for women and girls.
Reactions to the men-in-burqas march were mixed. One woman told Reuters that the campaign was a “foreign project to create a bad image for the burqa and Afghanistan.” A protest of a single woman who wore a metal bodice on the streets of Kabul last week to speak out against street harassment met with a similar reaction, with people concerned about the influence of “western culture” in Afghanistan.
“One of the best ways to understand how women feel is to walk around and wear a burqa,” one of the activists told Reuters.