Thursday, August 20, 2009: Marina, a 19-year-old woman voting for the first time, was the earliest person to arrive at the Malai Miwand Girl’s School, where the women’s voting center was located.
“I have been looking forward to this day for three months,” Marina said. “I am very happy that as an Afghan woman, I can participate in Afghanistan’s future. I accomplished my role, which was to vote. I understand that our votes are very important, and I would like to thank Afghan security forces for preventing any problems.”
Marina was one of millions of Afghans participating in the election pitting President Hamid Karzai against his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. All over Afghanistan’s southwestern province of Farah, voter turnout was strong, although nearly half the polls did not open due to security concerns. Preliminary results will be announced next week, and final results next month.
Security around the city of Farah was tight. Shops were closed so local police could control the situation. Two rocket attacks at 11 a.m. left one child injured, and fewer people went to the polls in the afternoon. Still, officials were upbeat. “It was not considered possible that such a large number of people would show up to vote in this round,” said Hangama Sadid, a provincial council member in Farah.
“We had planned to open 250 polling sites, but we could open 135 because of security reasons,” said Abdulwali Hamidi, an election officer in Farah. “But in all districts, we have two to three voting centers. Participation appears to be high, and everyone felt secure to vote in the center of Farah Province.”
In Farah and elsewhere around Afghanistan, polls were open from 7 a.m to 4 p.m. Each polling site has five centers for women and five or six for men. In most places, five people work in the polling center.
Sadiqa Darwishe, 18, a Third District resident, said she voted with complete confidence. “I am very happy that I could use my vote,” she said. “I voted to select our leaders who will go to work for our country. This is our responsibility. We have a big role in Afghanistan’s life. Today there is no political difference between men and women. We are all voting, thanks in large part to Afghan security forces which made it safe for men and women to vote comfortably.”
It was the second time Afghanistan has voted in a presidential election. The first was in 2004 and won by Karzai. “I am proud to vote for the future of Afghanistan,” said Haji Baba Rahmat, a male voter. “I came and voted, and I am very happy that I did my national duty as an Afghan.”