‘Oppression dress-up’: Lily Cole under fire for burqa Instagram post

The 33-year-old has been criticised for ‘spitting in the face of Afghan women’

Lily Cole posing in a burqa
Lily Cole poses in a burqa in a now-deleted Instagram post
(Image credit: Instagram/Lily Cole)

Model Lily Cole has been accused of “putting Instagram posturing before universal human rights” after sharing a photograph of herself wearing a burqa in the same week as Kabul fell to the Taliban, raising fears for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The Guardian reports that Cole’s post on Instagram, which has since been deleted, included two images: one of her in a blue burqa covering her face and body, and another in which the covering was pulled up to reveal her face.

The 33-year-old’s caption read: “Let’s embrace diversity on every level – biodiversity; cultural diversity; diversity of thinking; diversity of voices; diversity of ideas.”

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The post caused a flood of criticism. One Twitter user said Cole was “spitting in the face of Afghan women”, while another complained that she was “playing dress-up in another woman’s oppression”. A third said: “The oppression of Afghan girls is to be fought, not cosplayed. This is disgusting.”

Cole has apologised, saying she had been unaware of events in Afghanistan. “I hadn’t read the news at the time I posted so it was incredibly ill timed,” she said.

“My heart breaks reading about what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment, and in looking for organisations helping women on the ground I can support, I thought I would share some I found/donated to.”

Writing on Twitter, the Times columnist Janice Turner said of the model’s original post: “Lily Cole and the vacuity of modern hashtag-feminism. Putting Instagram posturing before universal human rights. I bet Afghan women are celebrating the ‘diversity’ of wearing this shroud.”

Sky News says the post was designed to promote the release of her climate change book, Who Cares Wins. But for the activist Caroline Criado Perez, the woman behind the successful campaign to get Jane Austen's picture on the £10 note, this only made the situation worse.

She tweeted that Cole's intended “diversity” message was confused given that her book is about climate change. “Completely incoherent I have no idea what she's trying to say,” she said.

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