Monday, August 17, 2009


Afghan women to miss out on vote in landmark election

KABUL, Afghanistan: Forozan Fana, right, one of only two Afghan female presidential candidates, gives her election brochure to an Afghan woman during her election campaign. Photo / APAFGHANISTAN - Millions of Afghan women will be denied their chance to vote in presidential elections this week because there are not enough female officials to staff the women-only polling stations.

A desperate shortage of female staff is threatening to undermine the legitimacy of the elections, which are the pinnacle of western-led efforts to build a peaceful democracy.

Strict cultural norms mean women cannot vote in male-run stations.

Women's activists say the Independent Election Commission (IEC) needs to recruit 13,000 more women before Thursday's elections.

The IEC refused to comment on recruitment figures, but papers leaked to The Independent suggest the shortfall is much worse, at more than 42,000.

Without female staff to operate the strictly segregated stations, and more importantly, without female searchers to frisk women voters as they arrive at those stations, conservative men across the country will ban their wives and daughters from taking part.

"If half of the population can't participate, the election is illegitimate," said Orzala Ashref, a director of the Afghan Women's Network. "Without women's votes, without women's participation, of course the election is not going to be valid."

"You need female staff," said leading women's rights activist Wazhma Frogh. "Otherwise women won't dare go out. Their families won't let them."

The problem is most acute in the south east, where there are just 2,564 women on the IEC books, less than 20 percent of the 13,400 target. In the south, they have less than half the 10,428 women required.

The IEC launched an emergency appeal through women's rights organisations last week to try to fill the staffing gap.

But in a sign of growing desperation, officials have suggested hiring old men and boys in their place.

"We are totally against this," Ms Ashref said. "The men will tell women, 'If you go and vote it will be men who search you'. Would women from the UK feel comfortable being searched by a man? It's even more sensitive here. They won't let them go."

At Nad-e-Ali in Helmand, an area recently under Taliban control, a lack of policewomen had meant that required searches of female voters cannot be carried out. Local elders have rejected suggestions that female British troops should carry out the task.

Many men in this deeply conservative area are adamant that they will not let women from their families vote in mixed stations. Niamtullah Khan, a 57 year old farmer, said, "we are very concerned about this. Most of my neighbours are against letting women go to these places where anything can happen. I, and a few others, think we should look ahead and have change, but I would not approve of my wife, sister, or daughter going into buildings with a lot of unknown men."

The lack of female staff has fuelled fears of proxy voting, where men vote for their entire families. Concerns were first raised in December when The Independent revealed "phantom" women voters were outnumbering men in the registration process.

New figures seen by The Independent show women registrants outnumbered men in five provinces, including Logar, Paktia and Khowst. "What's most alarming is that those places where the female recruitment has been most difficult are the same places where there was over-registration of women," said a senior Western diplomat.

Women's registration cards are especially prone to fraud because unlike the men's, they don't include a passport picture of the owner. Photographs of bare faced women are deemed culturally unacceptable.

8:41AM Monday Aug 17, 2009
By Kim Sengupta and Jerome Starkey in Kabul


All rights owned or licensed to Independent News & Media Ltd


USA_Admiral said...

They seem to be going backwards again over there. It makes me want to scream.

I am beginning to think muslim men do not know how to treat women.

AirmanMom said...

usa admiral...I am ever so grateful to be an American woman!!!

CI-Roller Dude said...

When we were in Mosoul, Iraq in Jan 05, we got to witness the first "Free Election" the Iraqis had in a million years. Insurgents were killing citizens going to vote!
What I don't understand is: Why every citizen in this country doesn't take the time to go vote in every election. I will never miss my right to vote.
As far as the way women are treated in by "Radicals".... is it can happen anywhere.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

I thank God for our right to vote in America. (if we get to keep it that is)

Coffeypot said...

AAHH the good old days...What?...Oh!...It is preposterous how women are treated over there. Actually it is what it is and has been since the beginning of time. It will take generations and positive media support before that kind of thinking will be changed. I am so gald to be an American, but that, too, is coming to an end with that…in Washington.

MRMacrum said...

Did we actually think we would turn around a culture this old in the space of a decade? At least now, they are being shown a new possibility. Right or wrong, the Afghans will have to do for themselves. We can only point the way.

And contrary to Coffeepot's assertion that - "I am so gald to be an American, but that, too, is coming to an end with that…in Washington." I am prouder now to be an American because of "that..." in Washington. We showed the world that we do walk the walk and just don't spew the talk. Anyone can do whatever they put their mind and their back to in this country.

Tami said...

I agree that we can only point the way. Hopefully by the next election things will be better there and these women will finally have the chance to participate in something that alot of Americans take for granted.

God Bless,
5 days till Scout is home.

AirmanMom said... is ever so important for us to exercise our freedom to vote. We have lost so many young men, for generations to protect our freedoms.

AirmanMom said...

grandpa...I am most grateful to those who have fought and continue to fight to protect these freedoms!

AirmanMom said... is only by the grace of God that I am an American, I do thank Him each day for this blessing!

AirmanMom said...

mr...we are America and we do go out there to help other nations stand up. I thank you for stopping by!!!

AirmanMom said...

aam...I am so excited for you! Let those Mom-Tears roll!!!!

MightyMom said...

anyone seen Susan B Anthony lately?

AirmanMom said...

MightyMom...I do pray this country will one day know a Miss Anthony of their own!