Paying the Price for Democracy in Afghanistan

Rasoul Sayyaf registering

We are on the cusp of another election. When I think about it, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and feel a sense of peace. But when I open them again, my heart pounds.

I think about past elections. After a dark, wild period, Afghans gained the right to vote. We elected a president; we hosted democracy. I voted for the first time from under my burqa. People from all over the world worked together with Afghans. We built schools, roads, hospitals, and universities. New doors were open for business. We had a parliament.

For me the biggest achievement was the possibility of getting an education, and being able to choose whether to wear a burqa or consign it to memory. Women’s lives became better, not only socially, but also in politics, business, and cultural affairs.

We had a decade of power and support from the international community. But we paid a very high price for democracy in Afghanistan. As we built schools, they were burned. As we rebuilt roads, engineers were killed in the middle of their projects. Afghans died in suicide attacks in restaurants, hotels, and on the streets. Despite the hardships, the Afghanistan people demonstrated their support for democracy. Now they are working toward maintaining the security to hold another election.

History shows us every fresh political start begins with much energy, promises, and laughter. There is also disagreement over policies. Half of the people shout “hurrah,” while the other half scream, “Allah Akbar!”

But nothing ends without blood. None of the governments of the past have really worked for the people. When one government ends, all hope turns to the new government. But soon people learn that the past government was better than the current. Every day we expect the worst, not the best.

It’s too soon for me to say anything about the upcoming changes and new government in Afghanistan. I know some of the candidates. I know some of their work. I know some of their lies. Other faces are new to me.

I hear their campaigns. It sounds very funny to me that one of them promises to create an Islamic military army for Afghanistan if he is elected president.

When I heard this, I thought, these politicians know how to use religion to deceive the Afghanistan people. I wanted to stand up and tell him that our army is already made up of Muslims. And what difference does that make? Why can’t Afghanistan be a place where all religions can co-exist without labeling everyone and everything by religion?

I love being able to vote to make my beloved country a better, peaceful place, but how can I elect a warlord—a man who yesterday came to us from behind the power of a gun? Afghan blood has dried on his hands and today I am expected to welcome him back through the process of democracy?

What a dilemma to have to choose from among so many candidates, the one who is not quite as bad! I am disappointed by the absence of women. But I believe in the power of Afghan women and I hope women can take part in every way possible to rebuild Afghanistan.

Sitting home mistrustful of the process is not acceptable. We should be part of the election. Like all of my countrymen, I light the candle of hope in my heart and hope for a good future.

I wish that when my children read the history of Afghanistan, they will not be disappointed by the outcome of our upcoming presidential election.

By Anonymous

Photo: Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, former Islamist warlord, registers as a presidential candidate for the April 2014 election. AFP.


Comments

  1. This is a very well-written, heartfelt piece, as good as anything in an editorial page in the New York Times. You take the reader from sadness at the state of democracy in Afghanistan to a feeling of hope for the future. Please hold on to your dream of equal rights for women and for all religions living side by side. It’s a dream I believe in too.
    Best wishes to you and all Afghanistan in the upcoming months.

  2. Nancy Antle says:

    I agree with Linda — this is outstanding writing! Your essay so clearly depicts the frustrations Afghan voters have and the difficult decisions you all have to make. I especially like the lines: “Sitting home mistrustful of the process is not acceptable. We should be part of the election. Like all of my countrymen, I light the candle of hope in my heart and hope for a good future.” I truly believe that with strong advocates for change like you, your country will be a better place for all its citizens. Thank you for being willing to write about this difficult process. All best wishes.

  3. Keep your belief in women and your hope for a good future. You are a eloquent representative for your country. When your children read the history, they will read your words which are making a new future.

  4. Dear Anonymous: Thank you for this fantastic, clear-eyed essay. So many lines will stay with me, but for now, I focus on these: “Sitting home mistrustful of the process is not acceptable. We should be part of the election. Like all of my countrymen, I light the candle of hope in my heart and hope for a good future.” I light a candle, too. I know others do as well. Stacy

  5. Kat Fitzpatrick says:

    Your eloquence, insight and steady heart astound me and inspire me. Thank you for writing!

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