Four years ago, under the radical rule of the Taleban, Afghan women were prohibited from working outside the home, speaking to strangers, or appearing in public unless accompanied by a male relative. Today, with the Taleban removed from power, several hundred Afghan women are campaigning for public office.
The September eighteenth elections in Afghanistan have nearly three-thousand candidates, including more than five-hundred-eighty women competing for the two-hundred-forty-nine seats in the lower house of the national assembly. The Afghan constitution stipulates that each province must have at least two women in its parliamentary delegation. This means that at least twenty-five percent of the representatives in the lower house will be women. Another three-thousand candidates, including some two-hundred-forty women, are competing for seats on Afghanistan’s thirty-four provincial councils, which will appoint representatives to the upper house of the national assembly.
The women candidates want the new national assembly to address issues of interest to Afghan women. “One major thing," says Masooda Karoakhi, who is running for a seat in the national assembly's lower house, "would be to help pass laws where women’s needs are taken into consideration.” She wants to gradually do away with archaic laws that disregard women’s rights. But the Afghan women candidates’ political programs are not limited to women’s issues.
Masooda Karoakhi wants to help put an end to corruption in the government. “The voters want to do away with bribery and nepotism," she says, "and they want people to be in positions based on their merit." Ms. Karoakhi also has clear views about the current state of the Afghan judiciary. “Our judicial system,” she says, “should be rescued from the radical religionists who are in power right now in that department.” Another candidate, Glu Andam Diona, sees Afghan national unity as central. “We need participation of all people, all ethnic groups in social, cultural, economic, and political arenas,” she says.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann said that Afghanistan has made remarkable progress, especially given that the Taleban ruled just four years ago with an Islamic absolutism that denied fundamental human rights, particularly to women. The September eighteenth elections will be a further test of Afghanistan’s political evolution.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.