two women registering

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.

By Nasima

Photo by Anja Niedringhaus.