New Internationalist

Carnage sells — but we aren’t cowards

Just 24 hours away from the elections,  I woke up and heard that some armed people had entered the Pashtany Bank in Kabul and the Afghan security forces had killed them. I heard news of rocket attacks, suicide bombings and killings in other parts of Afghanistan.
The news saddened me – but more than sadness I felt anger that a handful of people were trying to ruin the run up to one of the most historic days for us.

Our maid, Nadia, heard the news on the radio while washing clothes. We talked about it but the conversation soon turned to the election. She wondered where the nearest polling station was, she is new to our area. She had kept her voting card from last election. She knew who she was going to vote for. She took some money from me, put on her burqa and headed out to get groceries for the day.

The events made us cautious but not paralyzed. I walked out to nearby main road, feeling the energy and excitement in the air. The carts laden with cherries, mangoes, melons and peaches were parked under the colorful campaign posters of Afghan presidential and provincial council candidate. Queues of manual laborers waited on the bridge chatting about the elections. I took a taxi to work. The taxi driver didn’t know who he was going to vote for; he liked Karzai, Basahrdost and Mazhabi. I told him about who I was voting for and we had a nice little discussion but I couldn’t sway him. He was going to make his final decision behind the curtains of the polling booth.

At work I chatted online with a friend in Kandahar and another in Mazar, both angry at the unrest but both ready to vote.

I drifted towards the news sites; Kabul had made it into headlines and every outlet carried a feature on the Afghan elections. I could not recognize the Kabul they described; their Kabul was closer to the stuff of my nightmares where I am in Kabul streets and some stereotypical Hollywood-style Taliban, with white cloths, black turbans, long beards and kohl lined furious eyes, take over my city.

They portrayed the Kabulis as cowards that were hidden in their homes. Kabulis making their way to work and excited by the prospects of voting, some for the very first time, were ignored. Our anger was ignored and instead the empty threats and fear mongering of some criminal thugs were given column inches.  The voices of thousands of provincial council candidates were ignored and instead the voice of the spokesperson of the terrorist organization was amplified.

I hope those covering this election do not fall into the trap of sensationalism. They might think that terrorism, threats and carnage sells, but they should give bravery, human emotions and a nation making its decision a chance too. Just because we don’t have guns in our hands shouldn’t keep us out of the headlines.

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