Lily Cole Apologises for posing in a Burka on Instagram


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Lily Cole – model, actress and activist posted a picture of herself in a burka as a way to “embrace diversity” and promote her new book, for which she has apologised.

And given the current situation in Afghanistan, posing in a burka that is worn by some Muslim women would not help diversity and would be rash.

Lily said she understood the reason behind people getting upset and wanted to “sincerely apologise for any offence caused”.

She agreed it was “ill-timed” and said she “hadn’t read the news at the time”.

She posted the pictures as the Taliban were taking over Afghanistan. They used to force women to wear a burka in the 1990s when they were in power.

There was a photo where she was covering her face and body with a blue burka. Another one showed the garment pulled up to reveal her face.

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

She used the same post to promote her new book ‘Who Cares Wins’. It is about ways to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

The Times columnist Janice Turner accused Cole of “putting Instagram posturing before universal human rights”.


Anjum Peerbacos, the co-founder of the Hijabi Half-Hour podcast, said the pictures were “disrespectful”.

“It’s not a fashion accessory to be able to be deployed as a publicity stunt,” she told BBC News.

“Regardless of how people around the world have chosen to wear that garment, that garment is a respectful religious symbol and is worn and used as such.

“So for her to use it as what can only be described as a publicity stunt, I think is abhorrent and really displays to us her level of ignorance with regards to it.”


Aisha Ali-Khan, a media commentator and women’s rights campaigner, said Cole was “playing dress-up”.

“You can’t embrace diversity if you are still the white woman dressing in ethnic clothing. That’s not embracing diversity,” she said.

“If you are serious about it and you’re passionate about it and you want to see diversity normalised, you bring women forward that are from that diverse background and you platform them.”

Speaking about the situation in Afghanistan, Ali-Khan added:

“I understand the mentality and the subject of subjugation and the men who want women to be subservient, and the hijab and burqa, in that part of the world, will always be used as a tool to oppress and a tool for women to cover up for the sake of men.”


Later Lily deleted the pictures and apologised on her Instagram story by saying:

“This week, I posted an old photo of me wearing a burqa 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 said she was “looking for organisations helping women on the ground I can support”.



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