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Commentators have asked: Is she mentally ill? Or is she protesting?

A mid-length skirt is considered to be fairly modest attire in most parts of the world. But a recent photo of a girl walking the streets of Kabul, showing bare legs from the knee down has gone viral because in Afghanistan, the image is so rare and controversial.

Kabul-based journalist Hayat Ensafi saw the woman walking down a main street in the city and was so shocked by what he saw that he knew he had to capture it. He told BBC Trending, “I was shocked…I knew I had to catch this special moment because I never saw a woman here walking down the streets like this.”

The ‘shocking’ image…

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There has been a huge online response after Hayat posted the image to Facebook; thousands of people shared and commented on the photo. Because of the strict rules regarding women’s clothing in Afghanistan, the image shocked many online viewers but has also become a symbol of dissent.

The BBC’s Syed Anwar in Kabul says the woman is a huge topic of conversation. He told the BBC, “We have seen thousands of people talk about it…Not only on social media but also in the streets people are talking about her, wondering if she is mentally ill or if she is protesting.”

Some Facebook comments encouraged her bravery.

The BBC showed one comment that said, “It’s her body not yours…Salute her courage. We want to see more women come out like that.”

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Very little is actually known about the mysterious woman. Hayat attempted to talk to her after he took the picture, but she was quick to walk away.

Since the recent Taliban rule in Afghanistan women’s rights have been quashed, so full-body covering and the burqa are far more common than clothes that expose flesh.

bare legged girl in kabul

The niqab is much more common now.

“It’s risky for women to walk bare-legged in Kabul,” Syed Anwar told the BBC. “At the same time, some people have argued that [dressing like this] can pave the way for Taliban propaganda.”

He goes on to tell the publication that the whole city of Kabul is in shock.

But we’re just sad that this image is so alarming, when it should be part of the norm. We salute this woman’s bravery and look forward to the day Afghani women can have autonomy over their bodies and clothing, and do so without fear of punishment.

What message do you have for the woman in the photo?

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