British model, actress and activist Lily Cole has apologised after posting photos of herself in an Afghan burqa while promoting her new book about climate change.
Cole faced a backlash after telling her 95,000 followers on Instagram to “embrace diversity” and uploaded photos showing herself in a blue burqa that covered her face and body, and another in which the garment was pulled up to reveal her face.
A caption read: “Let’s embrace diversity on every level – biodiversity; cultural diversity; diversity of thinking; diversity of voices; diversity of ideas."
She has since taken the photos down from her page after being accused of “cultural appropriation” and "putting Instagram posturing before universal human rights", as well insensitivity over the situation happening in Afghanistan with the Taliban taking control of the country.
On Tuesday, she apologised, saying the photos were old and that she had also been unaware of the situation in Afghanistan.
"This week I posted an old photo of me wearing a burqa loaned to me by a friend," she said. "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 also 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.”
She has since recommended the organisation Choose Love, which offers support to Afghan refugees.
Cole began modelling in her teens and was named British Model of the Year in 2004 and was listed in 2009 by Vogue Paris as one of the top 30 models of the 2000s.