Five years ago, with the country at peace, traditional taboos easing and Western donors pushing for women to participate in democracy, millions of Afghan women eagerly registered and then voted for a presidential candidate. In a few districts, female turnout was even higher than male turnout.
But on Aug. 20, when Afghans again went to the polls to choose a president, that heady season of political emancipation seemed long gone. This time, election monitors and women’s activists said, a combination of fear, tradition, apathy and poor planning conspired to deprive many Afghan women of rights they had only recently begun to exercise.
As I said before it’s not clear how many practical alternatives there really are or were to acquiescing in this situation. Mostly it illustrates the fact that no matter what resources we deploy in Afghanistan, our ability to create the kind of society we would like to see is pretty limited.