What happened when 20 men in Afghanistan wore burqas?

However, the event that stood out the most for me, and even made headlines last week, was that of a group of 20 Afghan men, fully clad in blue shuttlecock burqas, marching down the streets of Kabul, raising awareness and protesting for women’s rights

The demonstration was specifically organised to commemorate International Women’s Day by a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Male Afghan women’s rights activists wearing burqas hold up a banner to show solidarity to Afghan women ahead of International Women’s Day in Kabul March 5, 2015

Photo: Reuters[/caption] Of course, my initial reaction to the news was that of shock and disbelief, which then quickly suffused to glee and wonder

And I suddenly heard myself saying the words I have been waiting to hear myself say for a while, “Finally! Finally men are rallying, risking their lives and standing up for the rights of women, something that we have never seen in Afghanistan before

” Like, ever

It appears that until now, only women – bold, brave women, I must add – have been trying to find ways to combat patriarchy and oppression, going as far as defying the strict rules of the country on how a woman should and should not be allowed to behave or dress

As we all know, women’s freedom is decidedly limited, as most wear the burqa in public

However, not too long ago, as early as last December actually, a young Afghan woman was seen walking through the streets of Kabul, baring her legs to the public; something that has not happened in Kabul since the 60’s and 70’s

 While veiling was still practiced back then, it was only towards the end of the 20th century, especially during the reign of the Taliban, when women’s veiling became strictly enforced

Not only were women socially ensconced, but they were also ordered to keep their bodies completely concealed in public

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="599"] Photo: Hayat Ensafi via BBC[/caption] Similarly, just less than a couple of weeks ago, another woman, named Kubra Khademi, was seen walking down the streets of Kabul, in a metal body armour, that she specifically had custom-made, to protest against the ever prevalent problem of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching in the country

 Having also suffered from sexual harassment as a child, Khademi felt it was vital that she took the necessary actions needed to raise awareness about the issue, even if it meant defying the country’s laws and risking her life

As expected, rather than gaining support and praise for her boldness and courage, she was instead ridiculed, taunted, threatened and stoned by a boisterous group of vile men

And that is not all; she has now been forced to go into hiding, fearing for her life


com/AbbasChang/status/571018548644085760 But that is nothing new

When women protest for their own rights and freedom, especially in places like Afghanistan; a place where women’s voices are often silenced, not only are they shunned and ridiculed for attempting to bring change, but they are also killed for it

Female rebellion is never encouraged nor seen as a positive enforcement

Nevertheless, the protest that took place last Thursday happened shortly after the unfortunate incident with Khademi

As a matter of fact, it was supposed to serve as a response to the suffering of women, which included inappropriate touching and sexual harassment

The only difference this time was that, rather than women, it was men: the very gender propagating oppression, hence making this protest that much more unique

It is almost like the perfect paradox

The gender that is known to tyrannise women is suddenly taking the initiative to empower women and bring about a change

For this reason, I salute those brave young men; I salute them for standing up for women whose voices and efforts have been ignored, disparaged, and dismissed

I salute them for wearing the burqa and trying to understand what it feels like to walk in the shoes of these women, day in a day out

I salute them for recognising that the burqa is not liberating, but rather cage-like and suffocating, as several of the men said that wearing the burqa felt “like a prison”

Even so, while I appreciate these men for their efforts, and for going above and beyond with the burqas and the protest in support of women’s rights, they will never truly understand the plight of the average woman living in Afghanistan

 Because, at the end of the day, they are men, they are still the privileged gender; the gender that makes all the rules and has all the power

So while they may wear the burqa for a few hours, or perhaps even for a day, the difference is that they, unlike women, have a choice: they have the choice of taking it off, throwing it in the trash, and even burning it, never to see it or lay a hand on it ever again

Women, on the other hand, do not have that option

The burqa follows the woman wherever she goes, like a dark, hideous shadow

Women do not and perhaps never will have the same sort of privilege that men have, not until and unless things change drastically in the way women are perceived and treated in the country

Nevertheless, I am hopeful because this demonstration is undoubtedly a stepping stone in the right direction

It gives me hope that there are more men like these, living in Afghanistan and abroad, who are also striving towards gender equality

Here’s to hoping that this demonstration will serve as a means for more men, and women alike, to find the strength, courage and motivation to come forward and fight for a more equal and just Afghanistan

Who knows, if this continues, the future of Afghanistan may not be so bleak after all

Date:10-Mar-2015 Reference:View Original Link