Viral meme of me in headscarf after Kabul fell to Taliban is inaccurate, US TV reporter says

·4 min read
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward on the streets of Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. (CNN)
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward on the streets of Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. (CNN)

A US TV reporter has said a viral meme claiming she was forced to start wearing a headscarf on air after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban is "inaccurate".

Two pictures of Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent at CNN, were shared online – one showing her with her hair uncovered before the Taliban took the city of Kabul, and one with her wearing a headscarf on the streets after the Taliban took over. 

Ward wrote on Twitter that she did not only start wearing a hijab after the Taliban took over the country.

She clarified that the photo of her without the headscarf was taken from a report she gave from inside a private compound.

She insisted she has always worn the headscarf on the streets of Afghanistan, although not with the abaya – a long dress that covers the body – or with her hair fully covered.

“This meme is inaccurate,” she said.

“The top photo is inside a private compound. The bottom is on the streets of Taliban-held Kabul. 

“I always wore a headscarf on the street in Kabul previously, though not with hair fully covered and abaya. 

“So there is a difference but not quite this stark.”

CNN reporter Clarissa Ward was asked to stand aside by Taliban fighters 'because I'm a woman'. (CNN)
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward was asked to stand aside by Taliban fighters 'because I'm a woman'. (CNN)

Watch: Who is Clarissa Ward?

Ward's comments came as focus remained on the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban's regime.

On Tuesday, a Taliban spokesperson said they'd announced a 'general amnesty' to Afghans, before adding that women will still be able to access education, including university.

Ward's employers, CNN, defended her from an accusation by Republican senator Ted Cruz that she was a “cheerleader” for the Taliban.

The spokesperson added that women will be expected to wear the hijab in Afghanistan, but not the burka, adding: "That is for their security."

In her report from Kabul on Monday, in which she interviewed Taliban fighters, Ward said: “This is a sight I honestly thought I would never see: scores of Taliban fighters and just behind us, the US embassy compound.”

She then said to camera: “They’re just chanting ‘Death to America’, but they seem friendly at the same time. It’s utterly bizarre.”

However, when she tried to report from outside the former presidential palace, Taliban fighters told her to move away “because she’s a woman”.

She said in her report: “But the welcoming spirit only extends so far, and my presence soon creates tension.

“They’ve just told me to stand to the side because I’m a woman.”

In a tweet posted on Monday, Cruz wrote: “Is there an enemy of America whom CNN WON’T cheerlead? (In mandatory burkas, no less)”.

CNN hit back at Cruz, making reference to his ill-advised trip to Mexico earlier this year while his state of Texas was enduring a freezing cold winter storm that caused power outages.

The official CNN Communications account tweeted: “Rather than running off to Cancun in tough times, @clarissaward is risking her life to tell the world what’s happening. That’s called bravery. 

“Instead of RTing a conspiracy theorist’s misleading soundbite, perhaps your time would be better spent helping Americans in harm’s way.”

On Monday, US president Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite chaotic scenes at Kabul’s international airport as thousands of people tried to flee the country.

Watch: Biden says he stands by Afghanistan troops withdrawal

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