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10/5/04 - WOMEN VOTING IN AFGHANISTAN  - 2004-10-06

Ten-million Afghans are registered to vote in the presidential election that will take place on October 9th. For the first free presidential election in the history of Afghanistan, women will be voting just like men. In fact, more than forty-percent of the registered voters are women. Many of the registered voters are refugees voting with their feet by returning to their homeland. At last count, two-million-three-hundred-thousand Afghan refugees have returned home since the radical Islamic Taleban regime was overthrown.

Women have been appointed to important posts in the interim Afghan government and a woman is running for President. Afghanistan’s minister of health is Suhaila Seddiq; the minister of women’s affairs is Habiba Sorabi; and Sima Samar is head of the human rights commission. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says progress is being made:

“I went to a registration site on one of my recent trips, and it was a registration place for women to register to vote. And to sit in that school and see a line of women going outside the building and around, waiting to register to vote and not leaving until they had their voter registration card. Some of them were completely covered, as is their choice. Half of them were not so covered. But they all wanted to be part of a new Afghanistan.”

Malaly Volpi is director of the Policy Council on Afghan Women, a coalition of Afghan and U.S. organizations. She says their lack of education still puts women at a disadvantage when it comes time to vote but:

“The ballots will have pictures and signs of the candidates."

President George W. Bush says, “The Afghan people face continued struggles in rebuilding their government and the nation. But the days when women were beaten in streets and executed in soccer fields are over.”