Threats Reported Mounting Against Women Candidates
Kabul, September 09, 2010 — Supporters of rival candidates have been accused of pretending to be insurgents to threaten female candidates in the lead up to next week’s elections for Afghanistan's lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga. Candidates in Parwan province have told Pajhwok Afghan News that some of the intimidation has included threats to cut off the fingers of anyone who votes for them. Zainab Haibat, Shafiqa Noori and Samia Azizi each told Pajhwok they were receiving threats. Provincial police chief Brigadier-General Abdul Rahman Syedkhili said the bullying was coming from rival candidates linked to Hizbi-i-Islami.
The claims come as Human Rights Watch says women candidates for the September 18 poll face the highest level of intimidation. Human Rights Watch says some candidates have complained to them about the government’s lack of security provisions for them but others have not requested help or turned it down, citing a lack of confidence in the Afghan security forces. "Insurgent violence, particularly against women candidates, was inevitable, but the government's weak response was not,” said Rachel Reid, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Attacks on candidates and voters are war crimes," added Ms Reid. "It is sadly telling that the Taliban are willing to kill those who engage in this simple act of personal freedom."
In western Herat province last month, 10 campaign workers for female candidate Fauzia Gailani were kidnapped. Five of the group were released yet the bodies of five others were found three days later. They had been shot. Ms Gailani told Human Rights Watch she had been threatened repeatedly prior to the abduction and told to withdraw her candidacy. A local security official told Human Rights Watch it was possible the abduction had been carried out by or for rival candidates.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the killing of three candidates during the campaign period. The group's chief spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, has previously told reporters that "everything and everyone affiliated with the election is our target -- candidates, security forces, campaigners, election workers, voters are all our targets".
Some 399 women candidates are competing for at least 68 seats in the elections. For a full list of candidates, see here. See also statements from DI and other groups on violence during the election period.