Afghan Women Running for Office Face Obstacles

Afghan women candidates in the upcoming September 18 parliamentary elections are running despite threatening letters and phone calls demanding that they withdraw from the election. In Logar province, one female candidate’s door was set on fire, while in Helmand province, letters offering a US $4,000 reward for killing female candidates were given out, according to The Washington Post. Mahmoud Shah, a cousin of and campaigner for candidate Noorzia Charkhi, received a death threat letter at his home. Commenting on the incident, Charkhi said, “I’m not going to quit, because I want to show people that a woman should be able to do these things. But definitely I fear for my life,” reports The Washington Post.

Female candidates also face limited access to resources to pay for registration, lack of information about nomination criteria and process, and restricted mobility, as well as cultural norms not supportive of women in public role, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) elections report. As a result of these problems, 50 female candidates have resigned their candidacy, and in some conservative provinces such as Uruzgan, no women are signed up to run at all.

Some 237 women are running for seats on provincial councils, which will then appoint one-third of the seats in the upper house of parliament. Only 12 percent of candidates for the lower house of parliament are women, though 27 percent of seats in that body are reserved for women.

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AIHRC-UNAMA Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council Elections First Report; The Washington Post 7/29/05

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