The citizens of Afghanistan will vote on Sunday for a national assembly and members of 34 provincial councils. The democratic vote—and the presence of women as candidates—would have been unimaginable just a few years ago when the repressive, violent Taliban was in power, but violence and intimidation are seriously undermining the process according to a report, Afghanistan on the Eve of Parliamentary and Provincial Elections, released by Human Rights Watch yesterday.
Although 25 percent of the seats are set aside for women, women comprise only approximately 12 percent of the 2,707 candidates for seats in the national assembly (Wolesi Jirga) and 8 percent of the candidates for Provincial Councils (247 out of 3025). Human Rights Watch points to the lack of security as a cause for the small numbers of women candidates for Provincial Councils. Violence has been escalating in the months leading up to the elections, with the Taliban forces and other militants killing more than 1,200 people in the last six months. The number of candidates assassinated rose to seven yesterday when a candidate living in Helmand province was dragged from his home and shot by suspected Taliban gunmen.
A woman candidate in the Nangrahar province, Safiya Sadiqi, was attacked with guns, grenades and rockets last week, but wasn’t harmed. She supports a moderate form of Islam, is anti-warlord and pro-women’s rights. At a small rally, reported by The Christian Science Monitor, she described a pregnant woman being driven to the hospital in the trunk of a car, while her male relatives sat in the front seat. “I asked the men, how can they do this?” she said. “Show me where in the Koran it says you should do this.”