The Taliban requires that all mannequins’ heads be covered or cut off. Interviews with locals and eerie photos of storefronts offer a glimpse of Afghanistan’s new reality.

A model’s head is roofed in a costume store in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.AP Picture/Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Veiled and headless mannequins are a ubiquitous sight in trend retailers throughout Afghanistan.

  • A store proprietor says the Taliban’s restriction has affected the psyche of feminine buyers.

  • Afghans say life is tough below the Taliban, with no indicators of issues bettering.

Because the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, ladies have been pressured to cowl up. Now, the faces on mannequins of all genders should be hidden, too.

A mannequin's head is covered in a woman dress shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.

A model’s head is roofed in a costume store in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.AP Picture/Ebrahim Noroozi

For the previous two years, the Taliban has steadily erased ladies from public areas. Being a lady in Afghanistan means being invisible. Ladies should not allowed to work, go to highschool, and are pressured to put on the veil in public.

The Taliban’s transfer to limit ladies’s rights in Afghanistan started with vandalizing storefronts displaying pictures of ladies. As we speak, the Taliban have ramped up these efforts by making an attempt to ban a seemingly inconspicuous object: mannequins.

Insider spoke to a number of locals from Kabul, together with a store proprietor, a feminine athlete, and an Afghan-born scholar, to seek out out why the Taliban needs to destroy mannequins and the way this impacts the lives of each women and men in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, mannequins have been as soon as an emblem of trend and tradition. However prior to now yr, store homeowners have resorted to displaying them headless or coated in fabric, simply to maintain their shops open.

Mannequin's heads are covered in a women's dress store store in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.

Black plastic luggage cowl the heads of mannequins displayed in night robes in Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.AP Picture/Ebrahim Noroozi

In August 2021, the Taliban introduced that store homeowners should take away the heads of their mannequins, or get rid of all of them collectively.

However a number of store homeowners pleaded with the Taliban to allow them to preserve their mannequins intact. The Taliban agreed, however on one situation — all mannequins will need to have faces coated.

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One such store proprietor is Faisal Azizi. Earlier than coming to the US to check political science and authorities at Dartmouth Faculty in March, he operated a household enterprise promoting conventional Afghan clothes.

Azizi advised Insider that the Taliban pressured locals to deface banners displaying images of trend fashions earlier than making an attempt to completely ban the usage of mannequins.

The Taliban consider statues and pictures of the human type are forbidden, in keeping with their strict interpretation of Islamic regulation.

However consultants like Bahar Jalali, an Afghan-born professor of the historical past of contemporary Center East at Loyola College Maryland, believes the transfer to deface mannequins is a part of an extremist ideology to assault private freedoms and to rid life in Afghanistan of any semblance of normalcy.

“Even below probably the most conservative Afghan regimes of the previous, mannequins have been half and parcel of the city panorama,” Jalali, who fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979, advised Insider, including that the Taliban sees the figures of ladies as offensive and shameful.

Store homeowners now use numerous supplies to cowl the faces of mannequins: lace, cloaks, and even black plastic luggage.

Hooded and cloaked mannequins in Afghanistan.

Hooded and cloaked mannequins in Afghanistan.Stringer/AFP through Getty Photos

Whereas some store homeowners in Afghanistan have resorted to utilizing aluminum foil or paint to obscure the faces of mannequins, Azizi nonetheless feels it is necessary for the mannequins to look fashionable. Azizi, with the assistance of his brothers in Afghanistan, continues to run the store from the US.

Mannequins are a beneficial commodity to buy homeowners due to how costly they’re. Azizi estimates that every one prices between $200 and $300.

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“We attempt to match it to the colour of the costume, to make it seem like a masks,” Azizi stated. “We will not simply put a plastic bag — it appears such as you’ve kidnapped somebody.”

Irrespective of how arduous the store homeowners attempt to make it look modern, Azizi feels the requirement has affected buyers’ psyche.

“Gross sales are utterly down in the mean time,” he stated, including that gross sales for his store have dropped between 50% and 70% for the reason that restrictions started.

“When folks go to the shop and see the covers they do not need to purchase,” he added.

For a lot of Afghan ladies, procuring in itself is a tough expertise below the Taliban. Just like the mannequins, they too are subjected to many guidelines.

Tape wrapped around the head of a mannequin in Afghanistan.

Tape wrapped across the head of a model in Afghanistan.Nava Jamshidi/Getty Photos

In Afghanistan, ladies should be accompanied by a male chaperone each time they go away their home, Jalali stated, and going procuring is not any exception.

Marwa Ali, a 21-year-old soccer participant raised in Kabul, stated many ladies like her expertise a harrowing journey from their properties to the attire retailers. Ali declined to share the place she presently lives for safety causes.

“I went procuring with my brother in our private automobile, and the Taliban pressured me to go away the entrance seat of the automobile and sit within the again,” Ali advised Insider, including that she probably would have been handled worse had she refused to put on a masks or cowl her face.

Ali stated she misses procuring in her relaxed clothes and that searching trend retailers would not make her really feel “alive” prefer it did earlier than.

“We do not need to cowl the faces of ladies or mannequins,” she stated.

In an effort to maintain feminine staff protected, Azizi usually has them act as buyers throughout spot checks by the Taliban.

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The heads of mannequins at a clothing store in Afghanistan.

The heads of mannequins at a clothes retailer in Afghanistan.Stringer/AFP through Getty Photos

Working a store with feminine staff in Afghanistan is dangerous, Azizi stated. These caught are sometimes subjected to violence.

“You’ll be able to’t argue with them. They arrive with weapons,” Azizi stated, including that the Taliban can “simply abduct you or put you in jail with out due course of.”

Working ladies are harassed, he stated. Azizi likened the Taliban’s therapy of ladies to residing in “a cage” the place “they can not exit.”


A number of of Azizi’s feminine staff are widows. He defined that lots of their husbands died whereas serving within the now-defunct Afghan Nationwide Military.

Veiled mannequins in an apparel shop in Afghanistan.

Veiled mannequins in an attire store in Afghanistan.Courtesy of Faisal Azizi

In a patriarchal society like Afghanistan, residing as a lady with no husband makes life even tougher.

Dwelling below Taliban rule is a balancing act, Azizi stated: Store homeowners want “to be good with them” to ensure that their companies to outlive, however additionally they must make use of feminine employees in an effort to assist households in want.

“My enterprise is feeding 40 to 50 households,” he stated. “Ladies should not allowed to work. There isn’t any protocol. However I attempt to maintain my staff.”

For Marwa Ali, whose father died 12 years in the past, the hardship is one thing she witnesses on a regular basis.

“There are such a lot of ladies, like my mom, who haven’t got a husband to work for them. They want a job. How else would they’ve earnings or meals for his or her household?” Ali stated.

The way forward for the mannequins — and girls — below the Taliban continues to look bleak.

A close up of traditional Afghan clothing.

An in depth up of conventional Afghan clothes.Courtesy of Faisal Azizi

Mannequins would possibly simply be the tip of the iceberg, Azizi stated, including that he expects the Taliban to impose extra restrictions over time.

“For the native economic system, the Taliban have to be good to the locals. However as soon as they’re secure — in three or 4 years — they will ban the whole lot,” he stated.

For the Taliban, the plan is to repeatedly erase ladies from the general public sphere, Jalali stated. She sees the mannequins as only one extra instance of the broader assault on ladies and their presence within the public sphere.

“Being a lady in Afghanistan would be the equal of being below home arrest with no alternative for schooling, employment, freedom of motion, and principally no sense of normalcy,” she added.

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