September 18, 2010

Election Day in Afghanistan: Letter from Manizha Naderi

I am writing this update on election day for our WAW supporters.  Thanks to all of you who have asked how we are and what the situation is. We are all fine, but the situation has not been good.

The Taliban have disrupted the election process by attacking many cities with rockets, distributing threatening messages in mosques and other community venues, and kidnapping many election officials and even a candidate.

As you know, we have Family Guidance Centers and secret women’s shelters in Kabul, Kapisa, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kunduz.There were rocket attacks in Kunduz all morning.  They stopped only after the coalition troops attacked the perpetrators. The house next to our Kunduz Family Guidance Center was hit. Nobody was hurt, thank God, but the windows of our office were blown out. Our guards, finance assistant and one lawyer, who were staying together in the office when this happened (They don’t have family in Kunduz.) were all terribly shaken and afraid but not hurt.  The clients and staff in the Kunduz shelter, which is in another part of town, were huddled in the basement. The shelter was not hit.

Jalalabad also saw rocket attacks and a suicide bomber. There was some sporadic violence in Kabul, but not as much as in other cities, and our staff and office were not affected. However,  a
disturbing incident occured in Kabul on Thursday.  Someone threw the corpse of a newborn baby behind the mosque in front of our Kabul office. The local residents were shocked by this.  Because we're a women’s organization, they assumed the baby was thrown out of our office  I had given everyone the day off, and there was no one in the WAW office at the time. When I learned by phone that 50 angry locals had gathered in front shouting Allah-hu-Akbar and wanting to enter the building, I called the police, who immediately cleared the crowd.

All our staff will be off until the security alerts are lifted, and the country is functioning normally.  I have called a meeting with the Imam of the mosque opposite our office and other neighborhood leaders and respected people, as well as the local police. We will also soon have a workshop that will be open to residents of the neighborhood in Kabul to explain who Women for Afghan Women is and to describe our work.

As for the election itself, very few people I know are venturing out to vote.  People don’t have much hope; they feel the election is rigged, and they are afraid about the violence. 

I am also worried about Nasto Naderi, a popular TV host--the Rush Limbaugh of this country--and candidate for Parliament.  He is against women’s organizations and women in general. He accuses shelters of engaging in prostitution and is calling for their closure. His election will not bode well for the work we do or the women we serve.

On a positive note, three women on the WAW staff, Azima Kohistani, Ramzia Mohammadi and Semin Ahmadzai, are standing for election—one in Kapisa and two in Jalalabad.  WAW has supported these women to the extent permissible by law, and we are rooting for them.  It will be several weeks before all the votes are tallied and the results announced.

With deep thanks to all of you for your support and good wishes,

Manizha Naderi

Executive Director


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