(Women for Afghan Women, a humanitarian organization I’ve supported for many years, runs a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence in Kabul, and a smaller one in Mazar-i-sharif. In this update to her August 19th letter detailing the anxiety leading up to election day, WAW executive director Manizha Naderi reports on voting in Afghan elections on August 20. For more information about WAW, and to make a donation, go here.)

Dear WAW Supporters:

Thank you for all the supportive emails we have received since my last update a few days ago.

All of you have probably heard from news reports, the elections went on as planned and with far fewer violent attacks than we all expected. The Afghan news reports said that there were 135 rocket attacks around Afghanistan and about 20 people were killed.

Our centers, staff and clients were safe. There were no incidents. Now we are all waiting for the announcement of the winner. The government has forecasted that there will be demonstrations. I might close the Kabul Family Guidance Center for another few days when that happens.

On election day I went to vote. I went with my husband, his sister Naseema, her two sons, and also my babysitter Nafis Gul and her daughter. Everything was peaceful. Turnout was low. Besides us there were 4 other men there to vote. This was the first time that Nafis gul and Naseema were voting. I was very excited for them.

While I was at the polls there were no other women there besides us. But from what we’ve heard, women showed up at the polls everywhere. More women voted in the North than in the South (for obvious reasons). The Taliban had threatened anyone who voted and had ink on their fingers. They said that they will cut that finger. Even then these brave people went out to vote. But overall voter turnout was lower than last time.

It was incredibly empowering to vote. It was my first time to vote in Afghanistan. It was even more empowering for Nafis Gul and Naseema. This was their first time to vote in their lives. They didn’t know what to expect. Before the elections I had spoken to them about how important it was to vote. I told them that if they didn’t vote, they couldn’t complain later about the results. So it was like their birthday. It was very special.

Everyone is now waiting for the results. People are afraid if Karzai wins, then Dr. Abdullah’s people are going to hold violent demonstrations.

Karzai–we’ve seen what he’s done already. His major plan if he wins is to negotiate with the Taliban-which WAW is against.

Dr. Abdullah–His major flaw is that he was a warlord during the civil wars. WAW stands in solidarity with leaders like Malalai Joya who risked her life by denouncing the presence of warlords in the institutions which govern the nation. Men who have killed and raped have no place in the government, let alone as President.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai–He’s the most qualified although he probably won’t win the election. In the TV debates, Mr. Ahmadzai won every debate. He has really good plans for the economy. He’s the only person who talked a little about bringing women into the government.

I was dismayed that all candidates downplayed women’s roles. It was like they didn’t want to talk about women. Both Karzai and Dr. Abdullah have claimed victory. People think that if Karzai wins Dr. Abdullah’s people will become violent.

I am happy that the election took place, but since it looks like Karzai is going to win, I am not very hopeful. We will have the same old again. More corruption and wasting money. This time, he’ll negotiate with the Taliban. Hopefully I’ll be wrong about him. Women here are angry that Karzai signed the Shi’ia law in such a stealthy way right before the elections. We are waiting to see the full text of the law that was signed before we make an official WAW comment.

I will write again soon about the two clients who arrived in our shelter on the night before election day. Our drivers drove them from the police station to the shelter in the middle of the night. I will be meeting them today.

It is a huge comfort to know that our supporters are now beginning to hear more about our day to day work in Afghanistan and the tensions and challenges of doing work in a war zone. I am grateful to each one of you for caring. Do send us a donation if you can, as much or as little as you can.

Manizha Naderi
Executive Director, Women for Afghan Women