British model Lily Cole apologises for posing in burka

British model Lily Cole apologises for posing in burka amid Taliban takeover, says she was 'unaware of news'
3 min read
18 August, 2021
Lily Cole apologised for posing in a burka as women in Afghanistan fear for their lives following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Lily Cole apologised for her upload [Getty]

Model Lily Cole has apologised for wearing a burka - a full-body garment, common in parts of Afghanistan - in an Instagram post to promote her new book, just as the Taliban closed in on Kabul.

The British star uploaded a slide of photos on Sunday, one which shows her face covered with a bright blue burka and another revealing her face, urging followers to "embrace identity".

The burka was mandatory for women when they last ruled Afghanistan up to 2001 and became a symbol of their oppression.

The caption read: "Let's embrace diversity on every level - biodiversity; cultural diversity; diversity of thinking; diversity of voices; diversity of ideas."

The post was also used to promote her new book "Who Cares Wins", about tackling the environmental crisis.

Her post received a huge backlash online due to the timing, with the Taliban sweeping through Afghanistan last week and capturing the capital Kabul on Sunday.

Muslim women accused Cole of cultural appropriation and being insensitive to women who may have to wear the burka under Taliban rule.

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"You wear Borgha, Traditional scarf in Afghanistan. Taleban Forced Women To Wear It. Now Taleban Takes Cities. They Murder And Rape. And the world is jist Watching [sic]", said Iran-based fashion designer Maryam Farsi.

Cole's response to Farsi caused further anger, with many on social media accusing her of being insensitive to Muslim criticisms of her action.

"Thank you. To my mind, diversity = choice (forcing people to wear or to do something is not diverse and not what I am referring to). I think the garment is from Pakistan, but will double check with my friend who loaned it to me," she replied.

She has since apologised after Instagram followers criticised the "ill-timed" post. The Taliban forced women to wear the garment during their rule between 1996 to 2001.

Anjum Peerbacos, co-founder of the "Hijabi Half-Hour" podcast, told BBC News that Cole's picture is "abhorrent and really displays to us her level of ignorance with regards to it".

Janice Turner, trustee of Centre for Women's Justice, accused Cole of putting Instagram posturing before universal human rights in a tweet.

Cole eventually capitulated to the online pressure and issued an apology after deleting the post three days later, claiming she was unaware of what was happening in Afghanistan at the time.

Cole wrote: "This week, I posted an old photo of me wearing a burka loaned to me by a friend, as she pointed out I was undermining its original purpose by wearing it with my face exposed, but I understand why the image has upset people and want to sincerely apologise for any offence caused.

"I hadn't read the news at the time I posted so it was incredibly ill-timed (thank you for pointing that out to me)."

She added that her "heart breaks reading about what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment" and was "looking for organisations helping women on the ground I can support".