• People have stood in line in the rain for hours and don’t care. This is their chance to vote and they’re taking it. 
  • Checkpoints in Kabul city every 500 meters. 
  • Kandahar’s streets so empty that kids are playing cricket all over the city. What will they grow up to remember this day as? 
  • Kabul shopkeepers decided to keep their shops closed today. 
  • Taliban losing their shit and literally no one is taking them seriously; no one is even reporting on their nonsense. 
  • Elderly voting is moving me to tears. 
  • Prisoners allowed to vote. 
  • People showing up even without voter registration cards, with just their IDs and are asking to vote, and are denied. 
  • They’re running out of ballots in so many places with at least 3 hours left. 
  • Many have shared that this day feels like Eid. Music in the streets, people wearing their best clothes. 
  • Don’t know where people are getting this hope from but observers have said that they’ve never, in their entire life in Afghanistan, seen this many Afghans in line. Against the odds, against the threats, against it all, Afghans are coming out to vote and that courage is something else. 

An Afghan burqa-clad woman casts her vote at a polling station in Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation’s “first democratic transfer of power.” Polling stations have closed at 5:00 p.m. local time after nearly 10 hours of voting that saw a massive turnout, including in some of the most dangerous areas of the country. Partial results are expected as soon as Sunday. (Photograph credit: Rahmat Gul/AP)

Photo: Miguel Schincariol—AFP/Getty Images

Pictures of the Week: June 13 - June 20

From Iraq’s eternal war and Spain’s early Word Cup exit, to a deadly double twister in Nebraska and Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s submarine ride, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

See the full gallery at TIME.com

Why Afghans May Vote for a Pencil or Bulldozer

A bulldozer. A radio. A pencil. A Koran. These are just a few of the candidates vying to win Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential election. 

For each of the 10 candidates expected to be on the ballot for the April 5 vote, there is a symbol. And those symbols will be printed on ballot papers alongside the name and photograph of each candidate to help voters choose their preferred candidate.

The idea is to make voting easier for the many eligible voters in the country who cannot read. Only 39 percent of Afghanistan’s adult population is literate.

In keeping with elections dating back to 2004, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) initially assigned a symbol to each potential candidate assuming that there would be a high number of contenders to choose from.

Read more. [Image: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

Why a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan may be necessary | Adnan R. Khan

In a nation like Afghanistan, undergoing radical change, every decision seems to yield an array of what-if scenarios. Most recently, it was the Afghan presidential elections: What if the April 5 vote had produced a clear winner? Afghanistan might be celebrating the first popularly mandated transition of power in its history. Its new president would have signed the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S., prompting NATO to do the same and ensuring some level of stability for the near term.

Instead, two rivals emerged with no clear winner. One, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is a Pashtun, Afghanistan’s main ethnic group, concentrated in the east and south of the country. The other, Abdullah Abdullah, is considered a Tajik (though technically, he is half-Pashtun as well), who represents Afghanistan’s Persian-speaking north and west. They duelled in a runoff vote on June 14, the result of which should have been clear and binding. It wasn’t. Instead of preparing for a historic presidential inauguration, Afghans are now facing yet more uncertainty and security struggles. This week, a man dressed as an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military base outside Kabul, killing a U.S. Army major-general and wounding 14.

What’s little known is just how close Afghanistan came to total disaster. In the lead-up to the runoff vote, campaigning took an ugly turn: appeals to ethnicity became more frequent, dangerously raising tensions. The runoff vote was marred with allegations of fraud. Abdullah in particular cried foul, and threatened to set up his own parallel government after preliminary results showed Ahmadzai in the lead by a significant margin.

FULL ARTICLE (Maclean’s)

Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein/flickr

By the way, the voter turnout of yesterday’s elections in Afghanistan is estimated to have been about 60%. They ran out of ballots in many districts because no one expected such a huge turn-out. In comparison, the turnout for the 2012 presidential election in the US was 57.5%. 

PHOTO OF THE DAY — A boy carries election material to polling stations inaccessible by road in Shutul, Panjshir province, Afghanistan April 4, 2014. Presidential elections will be held on Saturday. There are eight candidates for president, including former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. (Photograph credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Photographer profile: Ahmad Masood was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1980. Aged 21, he dreamt of leaving Afghanistan in 2001 to join his brother in London. But 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan quashed his plans. Masood was living in the Panjshir Valley, a staging post for opposition Northern Alliance forces. His self-taught English brought him work as a ‘fixer’ for foreign journalists. His first job with Reuters Television led to work with Reuters correspondents and visiting photographers. Masood learnt much from them, and tried his hand at writing stories before discovering a talent for photography. By 2003 Masood was in charge of Reuters Afghan pictures coverage, as chief photographer of the Kabul bureau.

7 Million Afghans Just Dealt a Blow to the Taliban

In a nation more associated with calamity than consensus, the initial results of Saturday’s Afghan presidential election are startling.

Despite Taliban threats to attack polling stations nationwide, the same percentage of Afghans turned out to vote—roughly 58 percent, or 7 million out of 12 million eligible voters—as did Americans in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. Instead of collapsing, Afghan security forces effectively secured the vote. And a leading candidate to replace Hamid Karzai is Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank technocrat who has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, a Lebanese Christian wife, and an acclaimed book and TED talk entitled “Fixing Failed States.”

"Relative to what we were expecting, it’s very hard to not conclude that this was a real defeat for the Taliban," Andrew Wilder, an American expert on Afghanistan, said in a telephone interview from Kabul on Monday. "And a very good day for the Afghan people."

Two forces that have long destabilized the country—its political elite and its neighbors—could easily squander the initial success. Evidence of large-scale fraud could undermine the legitimacy of the election and exacerbate long-running ethnic divides. And outside powers could continue to fund and arm the Taliban and disgruntled Afghan warlords, as they have for decades.

Read more. [Image: Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

Buy One, Get One Free/Two At The Price Of One


To All Those Afghans Who Voted In These Election.They Made A Great Gain Today.They Went To Chose A President, However, They Not Only Chose A President But A CEO Too. This Special Offer Was Introduced By IEC & UN With Help Of USA.

Condition: The Purchased Item Is Not Exchanged Or Refunded. Your Statutory Rights Are Violated. 

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

- Wisława Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

(photo credit: my friend Ateeq)

Suffrage in Afghanistan

by Christina Dietmeier, WAND Intern, Arlington MA


Image: Women of Afghanistan stand outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Source: White House, via Wikipedia Commons.

At 20 years old, my election experience is very limited. Of the three ballots I’ve cast, two of them were sent absentee. My one in-person voting experience was in 2011, where the only question on the ballot had to do with a levy in my school district. I remember being perplexed with the lack of security at the polling place. I walked in, told them my name and address, and got my ballot. That was it. I was in and out in less than five minutes. When voting absentee in the 2012 Presidential election, the only difficulty I encountered was finding a fellow Minnesota resident on my Boston college campus to sign my ballot as a witness. Of the many people I knew who were voting in person, either in Boston or back home in Minnesota, the only concern I heard of was the long wait in line to cast your ballot.

In Afghanistan on April 5th, voters were concerned with much more than the queue they had to wait in. Leading up to the election, the Taliban released several statements in an attempt to deter voters. In their most strongly-worded statement they vowed to “use all force at its disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections; target all its workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices and the nation.” (x)  The Taliban’s statements were followed up by actions – in the two months prior to Election Day, 39 suicide bombers were unleashed across the country. These threats lead the Afghan government to instill heavy security measures at polling places to avoid further attacks.

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Rapping for Democracy in Afghanistan

Seventy percent of the country’s population is under 25. Can music make them interested in politics?

Read more.