KABUL- Pictures of female candidates on the walls of the Afghan capital city alongside male contenders in the April 5, 2014 general elections speak volumes on the country's transition from the iron-clad rule of the Taliban more than 13 years ago.
Scores of female politicians, some of them pretty enough to be beauty queens, are now openly campaigning for seats in the provincial councils or assemblies thus elevating the status of Afghan women in the traditionally patriarchal society. These young and ambitious female contenders, in full beauty make-up, along with elderly women candidates, have come up with promising mottoes such as "equity, justice and social welfare" for all Afghans regardless of gender and stations in life. They urged all Afghans to use their right of suffrage in next month's presidential and provincial councils' elections.
Afghanistan is a country of traditions and tribal customs. Many Afghans, especially those living in the rural areas, are against women participation in social activities including politics, even opposing education for girls. "Learning from the past experiences plus today's efforts for the rights of women can guarantee a better future for Afghan women," one female candidate for the Kabul Provincial Council said in her campaign poster.
Although there is no female candidate for president, there are two women vying for the position of vice president. "We believe in act and not in empty word," says a slogan written below the photo of Habiba Qaderi, a candidate for a seat in the Provincial Council in Kabul. The slogan - "The knight of your demands" - in a billboard with the photo of woman candidate Shukiba Saifi Kamal has drawn the attention of voters in the capital city. Khatera Ishaqzai is another female candidate for a seat in Kabul's Provincial Council. In her campaign posters, she is promising to "ensure justice, human rights and women rights" for all.
Because of security problems, most women candidates are limiting their campaign sorties in the capital since campaigning in the rural areas could pose danger to their lives. The militant Taliban has openly threatened to disrupt the election process, even saying that they would kill candidates who will join the election as well as their supporters. The Taliban has said that the election is another ploy of the U.S. to continue its stranglehold of Afghanistan.
The Taliban threat has prompted male and female candidates to call on the government to provide them with security escorts, especially during the campaign and on the election day. A statement posted on the Taliban website last week ordered its fighters to target election workers, election sites and security escorts given to candidates. At least a dozen election workers have been killed since the start of the election campaign on Feburary 2, 2014. In a latest attack on a police station in Jalalabad city, eastern Afghanistan, on Thursday for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, 18 people including 10 police were killed and 15 others sustained injuries.