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Letter from Africa: Sudan's fashion police shave off afros

In our series of letters from African journalists, Zeinab Mohammed Salih looks at the contentious issue of fashion in the conservative, Islamic country of Sudan.

In the last few weeks social media users in Sudan have been by the former Janjaweed forces in some of the poor areas of Khartoum, the capital.

The government-backed Janjaweed militia, accused of , now have a new role.

They were accused of riding camels and horses into villages seen as sympathetic to rebels, burning them to the ground, killing the men and raping the women.

Now renamed the Rapid Support Forces, they have been tasked with tracking down traffickers and stopping migrants heading to Europe - a role funded by the European Union (EU), although .

It is not entirely clear why the former fighters have now taken to shaving off afros, but the hairstyles tend to be associated in conservative religious and social circles with people who are "deviant".

Dress is indeed a touchy subject in Sudan, where fashion can get you into trouble.

The actions of the former Janjaweed fighters reminded people of the Public Order Police, who often arrest and flog women for wearing what they see as indecent clothes, like trousers.

They also arrest tea ladies and other vulnerable women for working in public places.

The Public Order Police are controversial in Sudan, yet some Sudanese hold similarly conservative views on a women's position in society and how they should look.

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