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Electoral Violence against Women in Herat
Published on 29 Aug 2010 at 03:30
By Nela Akbari
HERAT-- With the Parliamentary election campaign heating up by the day, women candidates are facing particular challenges.
From the beginning of the campaign in June, women have been limited in their campaigning, since they are unable to travel to the more remote and insecure areas of the province. But now, with the September 18 poll just weeks away, women have been having problems even in Herat city.
Women’s posters are being torn down or defaced; while men do experience the same problems, women seem to be particularly targeted.
A women candidate who spoke on condition of anonymity said that her photos had been defaced several times.
“Our people choose their candidate based on photos and election symbols,” she said. “This could be an organized action – some people want to discredit particular candidates.”
She claimed that some candidates in Herat were employing illegal means to win the election, such as insulting other candidates and using other tactics that are prohibited.
Ahmad Sayeed Haqiqi, the head of the Herat Department of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), did not deny that such things were happening, but said that he had not received any specific complaints.
Nevertheless, he expressed concern over the situation, and added that he had been in touch with the security authorities.
“Because of some traditional attitudes, there are many people who do not accept the presence of women in politics,” he said. “The majority of people still discriminate against women. Some are even against the elections in general.”
Herat’s female candidates are feeling the pressure.
“Such actions are designed to weaken women’s confidence and capabilities,” said candidate Bano Shamsi. “Such acts against women create distrust not only among women but also among all the people of Herat.”
Security officials confirmed that such problems exist but said they are ready to address the situation.
Noor Khan Nekzad, police spokesman for Herat, said that the police have arranged special patrols to stop people from tearing down or defacing posters. Such actions, he said, generally take place at night.
The issue has caught the attention of many among Herat’s potential voters.
“Candidates will not face such problems if they explain their platforms and programs rather than erecting huge billboards or pasting their photos everywhere,” said Ghulam Rasool, who lives in Herat city. “People will come to know them better and they will not deface their posters.”
Maryam, a student of Herat University, said that defacing posters or tearing them down was due to people’s lack of awareness.
“Elections are still strange to people,” she said. “We have to educate the public and the candidates about election campaigns and integrate the culture of elections into our society.”
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