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Model Lily Cole is criticised for posing in an Afghani burqa

Model and activist Lily Cole has shared an apology after being criticised for wearing a burqa in photographs while promoting her new book.

In the now-deleted photos which were uploaded to Instagram last week, the 33-year-old wore a blue burqa and full face covering.

“It’s out. Let’s embrace diversity on every level: biodiversity; cultural diversity; diversity of thinking; diversity of voices; diversity of ideas,’ Cole captioned the post, referring to her new book, Who Care Wins: Reasons For Optimism in Our Changing World.

Some followers were quick to point out the timing of the post given that the Taliban has now re-taken Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, and overthrown the government, following the withdrawal of US armed forces.

The presence of the Taliban raises serious concerns about the ongoing future of women and girl’s rights in the country and the likelihood of burqa-wearing becoming mandatory.

During Taliban rule in the 1990s, women were forced to wear coverings from head to toe and banned from attending school or working outside the home.

Cole has now responded to the criticism of her picture via her Instagram stories, apologising for “any offence caused” and acknowledging it was “incredibly ill-timed”.

“[Last] week, I posted an old photo of me wearing a burqa loaned to me by a friend,” Cole wrote on Tuesday.

“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 all incredibly ill-timed (thank you for pointing that out to me).”

The author added: “My heart breaks reading about what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment and I’m looking for organisations helping women on the ground I can support.”

She then shared links to organisations to support and donate to.

Cole supports a variety of humanitarian and environmental causes, including Water Aid, Environmental Justice Foundation, Comic Relief and PETA.

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