Ten years ago, I was married and teaching high school in Farah city when I learned from television and radio reports that Afghanistan would hold elections for the first time as part of our new democratic processes.
Afghans who were at least eighteen could go to a registration center and get a voting card. I wanted to cast my vote. But being married, I was not allowed to do anything without my husband’s permission and he opposed women participating in politics.
At school, my colleagues invited me to go along with them to get their voting cards. I told them yes. I was not afraid.
That night I spoke with my husband and he said I could get a card on the condition that I vote for a candidate he approved of. I agreed. I felt it was an honor for me as an Afghan woman. I felt it was important to exercise my right under our new democracy.
The next day, when I went to the registration center, I saw an old woman kissing her voting card and murmuring to herself, thanking goodness for the coming peace and security and the ability to participate in the election process for the first time and choose a president.
Getting my card was important to me, but I worried because I didn’t know who I should choose. Who would make a good president? Who could bring peace, justice and security to Afghanistan?
Many people around me said Hamid Karzai was a good person and he could bring peace and security and we should vote for him. I wondered if it was true. But at that time everyone, men and women, were happy for the opportunity to cast a vote.
Everyone was hopeful that school bells would ring again. They dreamed of the day the school doors would open, the bell would ring and their children, both boys and girls, would go to school. They would learn. They would play football and fly kites.
When the day of the election came, I was pregnant and my doctor had told me to stay home. But I remembered the old woman kissing her voting card and the effort I made to get my voting card. I got up, put on my burqa, and walked to the center to cast my vote.
With each step I felt stronger. I remembered my husband’s instructions, but as I got closer, I began to think, Why? Why didn’t I have the right to make my own choice?
When I arrived, I saw women working at the polls. First, a female police officer searched me and then another woman dipped my finger in the ink. A third woman checked my voting card. I accepted my ballot from another woman who ushered me to a voting area behind a screen.
I forgot about my husband’s speech and I voted for the candidate I wanted for president. I walked around the screen and put my vote into the ballot box.
When I left, I was so happy to have done my part for my country. It seemed as if the birds in the sky were singing of freedom.
Photo by Anja Niedringhaus.
Nasima — This is a beautiful essay, not only about the importance of all citizens casting their vote in an election but about your inner strength in following your own path and voting for the candidate of YOUR choice not your husband’s. Other Afghan women can learn from your courageous example. Thank you for writing these encouraging words.
All best wishes for the election on Saturday and always, Nancy
Your story touched me deeply. I am also a teacher, and I would like to share this with my students. We’ve been studying the theme of resilience and strength through the perspective of women in Afghanistan. I know that it will resonate with them beautifully. Thank you for your courage to not only follow your heart, but to speak so openly. Sending love and hope for your election.
Thank you Dearest Jenica to share my essay with your students. Please pass my greets from Afghanistan to your students, wish all the best, Nasima
Nasima, what a wonderful essay, showing why it is not only important for women to vote, but to have the strength and courage to make your own vote. You are a role model for others. Laurie
Tears over here. Eyes filled with tears. What a moving, powerful essay. I want to share your essay with the world. With anyone who has not properly appreciated their voting rights. Thank you for writing this and sharing this with us. Your storytelling is strong here–and your message, even stronger. Stacy
Beautiful…my thoughts are with all of you on this important day.
Thank you very much my dearest mentores and friends for writing kind words and encourage me . Big Thank you very much from me of Afghanistan. Love you , Nasima.
Nasima: I wish everyone in my country (USA) could read your essay and understand your strength and bravery in fulfilling your right to vote. I hope that someday soon school bells will ring all across Afghanistan!
What a read! I was so happy to hear that you made your own decision in the end. I am also a teacher and I was particularly struck by your paragraph about schools and learning and flying kites.
I will be reading your essay to my refugee girls I meet with tonight. They are 13 years old and homesick for their own country, Burma. Your words will encourage them to be strong. Thanks for sharing this with all of us and congratulations on your election. We prayed for a peaceful and secure outcome during our church today.