KANDAHAR, Aug 23: Threatened with death, restricted by relatives or alienated by politics, turnout among women voters in Afghanistan was generally poor and close to zero in some parts of the south.
“We were very willing to vote but then Taliban provocation started. We heard that they would kill people, cut off people’s fingers and cut off their heads,” said Naseema Naseri, who works for an aid group in the southern city of Kandahar. “The Taliban stuck up (fliers) making these threats. We were too scared to come out of our houses to vote,” she said.
Barrages of rockets were launched the night before and the day of voting. Naseri likened Kandahar to a ghost town during the elections. It was a public holiday. The streets were deserted and traffic virtually non-existent. “We were very happy and very interested at the last election. I voted for a special candidate (President Hamid Karzai) however he did not bring quality of life,” said Fatima, who works in a Kandahar school. “With each day, the security situation deteriorated. Hundreds of people were killed. Unemployment and poverty increased. Karzai is weak. The power lies with the foreign forces. So I decided not to participate,” added Fatima, who only uses one name.
A quarter of seats on provincial councils were reserved for women and while the number of women candidates generally was up on the last election in 2005, in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Uruzgan there were fewer women candidates than seats.
“It wasn’t just women. Men also didn’t participate as much as in previous years. From the night before until the end of the election, a lot of rockets were fired in Kandahar,” said Zarghona Kakar, who stood for re-election.