Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Afghanistan, then and now

I watched the film 'Kandahar' on Sunday. What can I say ? I also saw a report on C4 News about the forthcoming election. I know there is intimidation in places, pressure from tribal elders to vote in a particular way, coverage of Karzai compared to the other candidates, even the taunt that this is mainly a stunt being staged ahead of the US election.

But when one watches that film, set in 1999, at the time of 'the last eclipse of the 20th century'... People were robbed on the road with impunity (so much for the Taliban, with all their faults, providing 'law and order'), there was always the risk of a foot being blown off by a landmine. Those problems have not been altogether overcome. But above all there was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Now, there is a woman candidate for President, you see people listening to the arguments, women, some in burqas, some partly uncovered, some with faces wholly uncovered (the candidate's campaign had to ensure that not even a small triangle apart from that was exposed on her posters).

Note: it was said that this is the first time women have voted... From what I recall, women were elected to the assembly in the 1960's. I can't remember whether women had the vote or not. Of course, that assembly did not have much power. There is an account in John C Griffiths' Afghanistan: A History of Conflict (Andre Deutsch, 2001).


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