Today turned out to be another frustrating day in Kabul. I have been trying to visit a voter registration site to witness the process of registering, to ask questions to the people registering (especially the women), and to get a general impression of the process itself. The hot topic around Kabul these days is the upcoming election, and I’ve been asking around to see if I can gauge people’s opinions of the process. The main consensus in Kabul is that it has been chaotic. There are many passed deadlines, and so much uncertainty and misinformation that it is hard to get a firm idea of what is actually occurring.
Although I’m still researching the process of voter registration, today I had a first-hand account of some of the frustrations that international aid workers and Afghans alike experience. Sheila, one of the women in AWN who is handling women’s voter registration, called to find out the time and place of a registration site where I could visit to ask questions and look around.
We were told that there was a voter registration site in Kabul at the Shah Shaheed Mosque in the neighborhood of Kart-e-Naw. We called a second time to confirm the time and place, and were off. I could feel my excitement mounting as Sadiqa and I got into the car and drove to Kart-e-Naw. As usual, the streets were unmarked and unpaved, and we had to stop several times to ask directions.
Finally, we arrived at the mosque and got out of the car. We were approached by several guards at the door who told us that there had been voter registration at the mosque the previous day, but the process had ended, and registration for Kart-e-Naw was complete. I was extremely disappointed that I could not see the process, but at the same time, admittedly, I was not surprised by what had happened.
Afghanistan is definitely a hard country in which to work. Apparently, there are often miscommunications between the aid agencies’ offices and the registration sites themselves. We had called the office of the agency running the registration site twice to confirm the time and place of the registration site, yet the site had already closed.
I couldn’t help but think that if I had been confused as to the time and place of registration, then the same thing had probably occurred with Afghans wanting to register. Another critique of the registration process is that the sites are often unmarked or in out of the way locations which make them hard to find. I wondered how many people were unable to register, not because they did not want to, but because they were uninformed about the process.
Of course, these are the first free elections being held in Afghanistan, and there are bound to be problems and inconsistencies. Afghanistan is also a hugely complicated country. It has experienced over twenty years of war, and many people know nothing else besides war and instability.
It is unrealistic to think that the election process could run smoothly and be completely peaceful. Every time I get frustrated in Afghanistan, I just remind myself that three years ago the Taliban were in power, and women could not even be on the streets. Today, they are holding positions in the government and are able to vote and voice their opinions.
It’s definitely far from perfect here, but things are improving. I believe the only way to work here is to accept that, yes, things are inefficient and frustrating, but the only way to improve them is to learn from mistakes and work harder. So, hopefully, we can visit another registration site next week.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Jul 24th, 2004