Background Briefing

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

Key Areas of Concern

The Threat from Taliban and other Insurgent Forces

Through 2005, insurgent forces have been increasingly active in southern provinces and in southeastern provinces bordering Pakistan.  Insurgent Taliban forces in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, and Uruzgon and other forces in the eastern provinces of Jalalabad and Kunar have attacked not only military targets such as coalition and Afghan military forces, but also candidates, civilian election workers, clerics, police, and humanitarian workers.9

At the time of writing, six candidates nationwide are known to have been killed; in at least two of these cases, the Taliban have claimed responsibility, and in an additional two cases, local authorities suspect them in the attacks.  In addition, seven prominent Islamic clerics from southern Afghanistan, who have publicly supported the government or the election process, have been attacked or killed in 2005—in all but one case the Taliban has claimed responsibility.  (A list of these attacks can be found in the appendices to this report.)  Several other attacks, including attacks on women candidates in eastern Afghanistan, and an August attack on a doctor in Ghazni, may also have been carried out by insurgents.

Not surprisingly, candidates and political organizers in the south and southeast have told Human Rights Watch that they have serious fears for their security, and that they are limiting their travel and other activities.  Candidates in Jalalabad, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, and Kandahar told Human Rights Watch about limits on their campaigning and about their well-founded fears of being targeted for attack.  

A candidate from Ghazni explained that he limited his campaign activities to Ghazni city, and that he and other candidates were afraid to travel outside of the city “because of the security threat from the Taliban.”10  Many candidates in Kandahar city said the same.

A woman candidate from Paktika explained the situation for women candidates: “As a woman candidate, my life is in danger.  I can’t travel openly.  I send out some men with materials who campaign for me.”11  A second Paktika candidate had similar views:  “The security problem in the country is very bad; I cannot go and run my election campaign.”12

These views were shared by numerous candidates in southern provinces.  The continuing attacks by Taliban and other insurgent forces in southern and southeastern areas—especially rural areas—have impeded the political rights of Afghans voters and candidates in these areas in the lead-up to the election.  The atmosphere of intimidation produced by the attacks will likely interfere with polling processes in these areas, and, at the local level, compromise the election as a vehicle for expression of democratic will.

Fear of Local Commanders and Militias

In addition to fears of Taliban and other insurgent forces, found primarily in the south and southeast, many voters and candidates voiced concerns to Human Rights Watch about their sense of vulnerability at the hands of warlord forces—de facto or official militia forces ostensibly allied with the government.  Human Rights Watch, in past reports, has documented how warlords and their forces, who seized local control of most parts of Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s collapse in late 2001, have committed serious human rights abuses from 2002 to the present and have often repressed dissent by local political opponents and journalists.13  These forces do not openly challenge the central government’s authority, but their abusive actions undermine the government’s legitimacy and cause widespread fear and cynicism among Afghans.


Although Human Rights Watch did not receive any reports of systematic violence or large-scale armed interference with the election process, we heard consistent reports from around the country of the fear inspired by commanders and their forces, whose past abuses remain fresh in the minds of ordinary Afghans.  These complaints were heard in almost all regions of the country, and grew stronger as we moved away from urban areas where international security forces were present.

Across the country, candidates and political organizers complained to Human Rights Watch of cases in which local commanders or strongmen, or local government officials linked with them, have held meetings in which they have told voters and community leaders for whom to vote.  In some cases, candidates and their supporters allege that direct threats have been communicated. 

In Ghazni, several candidates complained about intimidation of voters and community leaders in August by police and army commanders loyal to Governor Shir Alam and former Ghazni governor Asadullah Khalid.14  A campaign worker for one candidate told Human Rights Watch that a district governor under Shir Alam told him: “I ask you not to work on the election campaign of [candidate’s name deleted for security reasons]. . . but if you continue to work for him, then don’t come to me if something happens to you.”15  One candidate says he was told by a representative of Asadullah Khalid: “Do not contest this election or you will face big problems.”16  Both the worker and the candidate understood these statements as threats.

In Parwan and Kapisa provinces, several candidates alleged that police and government officials held meetings in rural districts in which they threatened community leaders to vote for certain candidates, saying there would be “problems” if the candidates were not elected.17  In Baghlan, two candidates complained that local clerics, who they claimed were linked with local military and police commanders, made similarly vague threats to voters during public meetings in August, telling them to vote for candidates linked to two local commanders, Amir Qul and Bashir Baghlani.18  (Bashir Baghlani was disqualified from the election on September 12, after the electoral commission determined that he had maintained links to armed groups in Baghlan.) 

In several northern provinces surrounding Mazar-e Sharif, complaints centered around commanders associated with two contending military factions, the ethnic Tajik-dominated Jamiat forces led by Mohammed Atta, now the provincial governor, and the ethnic Uzbek-dominated Junbish forces led by Gen. Abdur Rashid Dostum.  Several candidates alleged that Allam Khan Azadi, a Jamiat commander in the Langarkhana hamlet northwest of Mazar, recently threatened campaigners for other candidates and told Uzbek voters that he would cut off their water supply if they did not vote for him.19  Human Rights Watch also heard numerous complaints of overt intimidation in relation to Akhtar Khan Ibrahimkheil, an ethnic Pashtun commander with a history of serious abuses throughout Mazar’s recent and bloody past.  Journalists, human rights workers, and campaigners in Balkh explained that Ibrahimkheil has tried to monopolize the Pashtun vote in the city by threatening voters and other candidates’ campaigners.20

In Samangan province, voters of different ethnicities complained about the intimidating shadow cast by Ahmad Khan, a Junbish commander closely tied to Dostum.21  Ahmad Khan’s forces were implicated in major abuses carried out in reprisals against Pashtuns in the area after the fall of the Taliban.22  Local journalists also told Human Rights Watch about cases of intimidation involving the Mohaqiq faction of Hezb-e Wahdat.23  In Faryab province, an area under strong Junbish control, claims and counterclaims of intimidation have focused around the campaign of General Malik, a militia commander and rival of Dostum.24

Candidates in several provinces have also received anonymous threats which they believe came from local forces.  Many candidates have been threatened anonymously by telephone.  In such cases, candidates said that they often feel reluctant to report the cases to authorities, because they fear the persons threatening them may in fact be connected to government forces, or have connections with local police or military commanders.  One woman candidate from Herat described threats she received in August:

They called from a local phone, and then from a mobile.  The first time they said, “Don’t run in this race.  We will hurt you, we will kill you, we may even do something to your family.” 

Then another time, they called and said, “Are you [name deleted]?”  I said, “Yes?”  And they said: “We called because we have some advice for you.  You should stop these things you’re doing.”  I said, “What do you mean?  Who are you?”  And they said, “There’s no need for an introduction, because by the time you know who we are, you won’t be alive.  Please, do not compete in this election.”  And then they hung up the phone.  I don’t know who it was. . . . 

There are a lot of problems for women candidates.  They face a lot of difficulties. . . . There are no real mechanisms to protect women’s rights, and when women are threatened, they don’t have anyone to go to. . . . We can’t trust the police.25

One campaigner in Balkh province who received a number of threatening phone calls in early September described his frustration:

This is a coward’s threat, because they don’t face us. And I don’t want to be a coward and give in to them.  But I also fear for my family if something should happen to me.  How can I complain about this [to the election commission]?  What can I show them [as evidence]?  Who do I blame?

These cases of threats and intimidation by local forces, detailed above, are not occurring in a vacuum.  In most places, Afghans are already living in a climate of fear and repression, and for many candidates, the recent history of abuses and repression by local commanders has—by itself—been intimidating. 

Numerous candidates told Human Rights Watch that it was unnecessary for commanders to make direct threats to candidates or voters: when commanders and local authorities make their choices known, people believe that they must obey.

“They don’t need to make threats,” said one candidate from Kapisa, speaking about local Kapisa commanders.  “They are the threat.”26

After living under one abusive regime after another, many candidates and voters have already been “intimidated” and already go about their daily lives watching what they say and do, fearful of upsetting local forces.  Many candidates told Human Rights Watch that they refrain from controversial or critical speech or remarks that might cause a hostile reaction. 

“I cannot speak openly outside my own home,” said one Ghazni candidate.27 

They might harm me, my children, my cousins, my brothers or other relatives.  I feel threatened: they might harm them.  Even now, if they [commanders loyal to the former governor, Asadullah Khalid] come to know I’m having this meeting with you, they would harm me or my family.28

A candidate from Takhar said: “We are afraid.  These are powerful people.  If I say something criticizing a commander, they can easily send someone to kill me.  Who’s going to protect me?”29 

A Sar-e Pul candidate had similar concerns:

I cannot talk openly or criticize these people freely.  I distributed some tapes and CDs, recordings of me speaking, but I do have some fears.  These commanders, they have been disarmed—so they say—but they still have weapons.  Of course we still have fears.30

Many candidates who are critical of local strongmen tone down or generalize their criticisms.  A Ghazni candidate quoted above explained: “When we give a speech, we don’t name these people [local commanders], or criticize them, we just make veiled references to them, and to ‘warlordism.’”31  A Takhar candidate made similar remarks:

You can say generally, “Don’t vote for people with blood on their hands,” or “Don’t vote for the people who stole and destroyed houses,” or “Don’t vote for the illiterate and bad leaders.”  But if you say a commander’s name—then you might be killed.32

An independent candidate in Mazar-e Sharif, a comparatively stable area, put it this way: “We refer to past crimes, we talk about the need for expertise instead of guns.  That is as much as we can say.  To say anymore would cause real trouble.”

Candidates in southern and southeastern rural areas, where Taliban and insurgent forces are active, are doubly pressured.  Several southern candidates, already fearful of possible attacks by Taliban or insurgent forces, told Human Rights Watch that they worry also about threats and attacks from local security forces or other militia forces opposed to their campaigns.  Some candidates said they were concerned that local forces could perpetrate threats or acts of violence against them and then shift blame onto insurgents. 

As one woman candidate from Paktika told Human Rights Watch:  “The local authorities, they can do something—shoot you, threaten you—and then say it was the Taliban.  It’s too easy.”33  A Ghazni candidate held the same view: “They [local commanders in Ghazni] can kill their enemies, and say it was the Taliban.”34

Lack of Faith in Disarmament Measures

Candidates throughout the country said that disarmament and the sidelining of commanders from security posts had helped weaken some of them and lessened their capacity to threaten voters or candidates.  But many candidates and voters who spoke with Human Rights Watch expressed serious doubt that local forces have been effectively disarmed.  A candidate from Baghlan province explained his concerns:

These people [commanders in local factions in Baghlan] have not been disarmed.  These commanders have kept ten guns for every one gun they gave up.  They’re not threatening anyone, but they don’t need to.  They’ve killed thousands of people.  They do not need to make threats, because when they speak, everything they say is a threat.35

From isolated villagers to savvy local journalists, many Afghans are convinced that Afghanistan is still awash with weapons.  “We saw their tanks and big guns only a few years ago,” one journalist in Mazar-e Sharif said. “And we saw the old and rusty guns they handed in [more recently, to the disarmament program].  So where are the rest?”36

Many candidates were cynical that commanders sidelined from security posts were no longer a threat.  As a Takhar candidate said:

These are people with money and guns, and they still have money and guns.  They drive around in S.U.V.s and are guarded with Kalashnikovs [assault rifles], and you say they are not a threat?  These commanders steal and rob, and still have power.  Everyone’s afraid.37

A candidate from Sar-e Pul had similar complaints in his province’s districts, where he said the supposedly “disarmed” commanders were still a threat to him:

The commanders have changed their name: they call themselves “elders” now.  But they are still warlords. . . . A week ago, I was going to campaign in some districts, but decided against it.  Some people there I know told me, “We cannot guarantee your security; the commanders are in control and could threaten you.”  They told me not to come.38

Alleged Rights Abusers as Candidates

Another key factor affecting the electoral atmosphere is that many candidates are implicated in war crimes or human rights abuses during the last twenty-five years of conflict. 

Under Afghanistan’s election law, there are no explicit prohibitions against alleged war criminals and human rights abusers standing as candidates.  In some ways, this is not surprising.  Many individuals with continuing political aspirations are connected to events or groups with records of abuse, and there are fears that creating a vetting process for candidates based on their alleged human rights record would be open to abuse and could even have had the perverse effect of allowing powerful warlords to falsely accuse their opponents while retaining the power to protect themselves against being disqualified.

Instead of explicit human rights conditions, the election rules state that candidates cannot have been convicted of any crimes and must not have links with armed militias or have control of armed groups.  These rules were adopted with the knowledge that almost none of the commanders implicated in past abuses have been convicted in any court.  (Despite the magnitude of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan over the past three decades, there have been no efforts as yet to create a tribunal to try persons implicated in past abuse.)  And commanders who are still linked with or control armed groups have all too easily formally shed their links or control by announcing that they have resigned from their party and handing in some of their weapons to Afghanistan’s disarmament program (even as they secretly retain others). 

As a result, many persons with questionable human rights records—whether Soviet era, mujahideen, or Taliban—are candidates in the election, and many retain significant military resources.  Some examples follow:

Sayed Mohammad Gulabzoi, a parliamentary candidate from Khost, served as interior minister in the Soviet-backed Afghan government in the 1980s, overseeing the government’s police forces, which were implicated in numerous abuses during the Soviet occupation, including killings and torture of detainees.  (Shahnawaz Tanai, who served as defense minister during the Soviet occupation, is not a candidate, but is leading a political party in Khost with numerous parliamentary candidates who served in the Soviet government.)

Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf, a candidate in Kabul province, led the Ittihad-e Islami faction, which was implicated in widespread abductions and summary executions in the early 1990s, as well as pillage and the shelling of civilian areas.39  One of his top commanders at the time, Mullah Taj Mohammad (governor of Kabul Province from 2002-2004) is also a candidate.

Several commanders and leaders within the Jamiat-e Islami faction—which was involved in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, shelling of civilian areas, abductions, and pillage during the early 1990s—are also candidates.  These include Burhanuddin Rabbani,the political head of the Jamiat party and the President of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996, and Younis Qanooni, a main Jamiat official and spokesman for the faction during the early 1990s.  Haji Almas and Mullah Ezatullah, both of whom served as Jamiat commanders in the 1990s were also implicated in the abuses noted above.40

Several former high-level officials in the Taliban are also running in the elections, including Mohammed Khaksar, the Taliban’s deputy interior minister; Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, the foreign minister; and Qalamuddin, the minister of the department of vice and virtue (which fielded special police to enforce the Taliban’s severe social restrictions).  The three were centrally involved in the Taliban regime, which was infamous for its draconian system of repression.  Further investigation is needed to determine whether the three were involved in specific atrocities and war crimes committed by the Taliban during military engagements from 1995-2001.

Many voters and candidates told Human Rights Watch that they were frustrated by the fact that candidates with records of past abuse could not be sidelined from the process.  Many were cynical about claims that the democratic process would sideline unpopular abusers, noting that under the balloting process for both the Wolesi Jirga and provincial councils one need not come in first to win a seat, but rather merely receive enough votes to win seats allocated in the order of finish (for instance, in the Kabul race, which has 24 open seats (for men and women), a candidate can come in 24th and win a seat).

A Pashtun elder in Samangan province said the situation had sullied the election process:

We are sick of such people, not just the Uzbeks, but the Pashtuns, the Tajiks—damn all of them.  Until the government in Kabul says to them that they cannot take part in the elections, until there is justice for all that they did to us, we cannot trust this process.41

A candidate in Mazar-e Sharif criticized the government’s failures to sideline commanders and past abusers:


The government says it has to let these men be candidates because they could make problems.  That is not true, but that is what they say.  Well if the central government cannot stand up to them, will not stand up to them, how can they expect the people here—who live with these blood-thirsty commanders every day—to vote against them?  We should not have to bear the pressure—it is the job of the government.42

Obstacles for Women Candidates

Women candidates share the dangers of a poor security environment with their male counterparts, but in addition confront risks associated with challenging social norms.

In areas with greater security, such as Kabul, women have been able to campaign relatively freely.  But in many other areas, especially those still dominated by insurgent activity or warlordism, or both, a pervasive atmosphere of fear and weak guarantees for physical protection have led many women to curtail their campaigning.  Campaigning activities like posting photographs or campaign flyers, or traveling around the province, can expose women candidates to social censure and retribution.  Limited financial resources and restrictive attitudes toward women’s political roles have also dampened women’s participation.  

In the final candidate list, although 25 percent of seats are reserved for women, female candidates represent only about 12 percent of the candidates for the Wolesi Jirga  (328 out of 2707) and only 8 percent of the candidates for provincial councils (247 out of 3025).43  In the period after the deadline for submitting candidate nominations and the finalization of the candidate lists in July, 281 potential candidates withdrew and 17 were excluded.44  Fifty-one of the withdrawals were women, a disproportionately high number given the relatively low number of candidates.  Some women cited procedural issues for their withdrawals, but others cited security threats, barriers to campaigning in rural areas, and financial constraints. 

The numbers of women candidates for provincial councils is especially low, suggesting that security in provincial centers falls short of the relative safety slowly being established for women in the national arena.  One women’s rights activist explained the particular vulnerability of provincial candidates: “For the Wolesi Jirga, the center of activities is in Kabul.  For the provincial councils, the center of activities is in the provinces.  Women don’t feel secure in the provinces. Also, the role of delegates in the provincial councils is not clear yet.”45  A woman candidate for a provincial council said, “We need security even after we win. Because we are not parliament candidates, we don’t go to Kabul. We have to stay here with all commanders in the provincial council, so we need security.”46  There are so few women candidates for the provincial councils in Zabul, Uruzgon, and Nangarhar provinces that five of the seats reserved for women will remain empty. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed women candidates who had faced low-level harassment from commanders—harassment that has instilled a sense of fear among many women candidates, who are aware that commanders have both the history and capability of using violence as a tool of intimidation or retribution.  Many were afraid to allow the use of their names or identifying details.

A woman provincial council candidate in a northeastern province explained her fears:

I am frightened to go to places where the commanders are influential or where they are present.  I don’t talk about them. . . . If I did talk about them they might react. . . . I talk about them indirectly. . . . But in front of them I won’t say anything because then maybe I or my family might face a problem.  We have to be friendly to them. . . . If we don’t they may destroy us and people won’t vote for us.  We have to cooperate.  It’s an obligation.  If we don’t cooperate they’ll tell the people in that district not to vote for me, they’ll threaten them—or I and my family will face problems.47

A woman parliamentary candidate told Human Rights Watch, “I’m not worried about normal people but I’m really worried about these commanders.  Anything could happen, a fake car accident for example, or they might give money to someone to put a bomb in my house.”48  Commanders are trying to retain their local power, she said, adding that: “My only worry is that people who see their interests are in danger will do anything to save it. So I am worried something will happen to me. . . . I feel the real danger, 100 percent, will be if I win.  If he [the local commander] loses, then it is a real danger for me.  We are both candidates for [district name withheld] and so he is worried I will get the votes from [district name withheld].”49  Several women candidates from Paktia and Paktika made similar statements.

The mix of insecurity and the risks associated with challenging women’s traditional roles have had a particularly strong impact on women candidates’ ability to travel freely for campaign activities, especially to remote rural areas.  As one woman candidate explained: “In some places there are guns and army people.  We are afraid to go to those areas. Commanders have guns there.”50

Given the combination of social strictures and the atmosphere of insecurity, many women candidates feel compelled to travel only in the company of male relatives.  A provincial council candidate from the north told Human Rights Watch, “My brother and some of his friends accompany me.  I can’t travel alone—I might be killed or something might happen.”51  Another provincial candidate said, “I always take somebody from the family because people do not think it is good if a woman travels alone.  I [personally] don’t have any trouble traveling without a man but the problem is cultural: people, especially mullahs, don’t respect woman who travel alone; it’s because of traditions.”52

Women candidates also struggle against low levels of awareness about election procedures and discriminatory attitudes against women in public office.  Election officials and candidates have observed that many voters mistakenly believe that women can only vie for the 25 percent of seats reserved for women, rather than understanding that they are also competing against men for the other “open” seats.  Not surprisingly, many women candidates have reached out primarily to women voters rather than seeking men’s votes. 

Unfortunately, while women’s high voter registration rates demonstrate their enthusiasm to participate in the elections, many women’s votes may be controlled by male family members, who will instruct women how to vote.  One woman candidate said that she was forced to recruit men to campaign for her.  She said, “I contacted influential people because even if I talk to women for hours and hours they still cannot vote for me because their family is male-dominated.”53  Another woman told us, “One of the obstacles is the traditions and discrimination against women and people look badly at women.  They don’t let women vote for the women or attend our campaigns. Sometimes mullahs tell people not to vote for women, [that] it is un-Islamic.”54

The Secrecy of the Ballot

Human Rights Watch asked many candidates, voters, and election observers about the perceived secrecy of the balloting on election day—whether most voters understood or believed that their vote choice could be kept secret.  We found that in most urban areas and in less remote rural areas, voters understood the secrecy of the ballot (although some voters were concerned that if local commanders did not win, they would be angry at local populations and retaliate—whether or not they knew how individuals had voted). 

But in many rural areas, especially more remote areas, Human Rights Watch found that numerous voters simply did not believe in or understand the concept of the secret ballot.  Numerous election observers across the country told Human Rights Watch they had serious concerns about whether rural populations understood that they could vote in secret.  As one international observer put it: “It’s common knowledge that most people [in rural areas] don’t understand what this election is for, or how the voting works, that the voting is secret, and so on.”55

Human Rights Watch is concerned about this lack of understanding because it directly impacts the potency of threats and intimidation.  Simply put, voters who are threatened by local commanders to vote in a certain way, and who don’t believe in the secrecy of the ballot, are more likely to do what they are told.  Radio announcements and voter education projects have often not succeeded in the more remote areas of the country.

The Potential for Future Violence

Human Rights Watch is further concerned about what may happen in Afghanistan after the September 18 election.  We are particularly worried about the possibility of candidates resorting to violence if they are not elected or are otherwise displeased with the results of the election.

There is a real cause for alarm.  According to Afghanistan’s electoral law, if a member of a Wolesi Jirga or provincial council resigns or dies in office, he or she is to be replaced from among the losing candidates by the person who received the next highest number of votes in the election but was still unelected.56  This is known among election observers in Afghanistan as the “assassination clause.”  It allows election losers to become winners if they bribe winners into resigning, or worse, have the winners killed.  Human Rights Watch is concerned that some losing candidates—those with the capacity to organize violence against other candidates—may resort to assassinating (or bribing) winning candidates, to take their seats. 

For this reason, we believe that the Afghan government should, as quickly as possible, amend the electoral law to provide for new special elections in the case of deaths or resignation of elected officials in the government, to minimize the risk of political violence in the wake of the election.

[9] In late August 2005, Latif Hakimi, a man who has repeatedly claimed to be a spokesman for the Taliban, told several journalists by telephone that Taliban forces would not disrupt the election process, and would focus instead on targeting U.S. and Afghan military targets.  Most government and diplomatic officials are skeptical Hakimi actually represents Taliban forces in Afghanistan.  In any case, mere days after Hakimi’s announcement, additional attacks on candidates and supporters took place in Kandahar and Helmand, including the killings of two candidates.  Hakimi subsequently claimed to one journalist that the killings were carried out by Taliban forces, and that the Taliban would continue to target candidates and election workers.  “Taliban kill cleric for election involvement in southern Afghan province,” Pajhwok News Agency, September 2, 2005.

[10] Human Rights Watch interview with I.T., candidate from Ghazni, August 27, 2005.  (Interviewees’ names throughout this report have been replaced with initials that do not correspond to the person’s actual name.

[11] Human Rights Watch interview with S.S., woman candidate from Paktika, August 30, 2005.

[12] Human Rights Watch interview with G.W., woman candidate from Paktika, August 30, 2005.

[13] See, e.g., Human Rights Watch, “Killing You is a Very Easy Thing For Us”: Human Rights Abuses in Southeast Afghanistan, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 15, no. 5 (C), July 2003, available at; and Human Rights Watch, Paying for the Taliban's Crimes: Abuses Against Ethnic Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 14, no. 2(c), n. 13, available at

[14] Human Rights Watch interview with M.I.S., candidate in Ghazni, Kabul, August 25, 2005.  Human Rights Watch interview with M.J., Ghazni candidate, Ghazni city, August 26, 2005.  Both Shir Alam and Asadullah Khalid are linked with Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf’s political-military faction Tanzim-e Dahwat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan, formerly known as Ittihad-e Islami-ye Afghanistan.  As one candidate said, “All the districts are run by Sayyaf’s party.  There are problems for other candidates, but not for them [Tanzim candidates].  We don’t feel safe going out to districts.”  Human Rights Watch interview with M.I.S., Kabul, August 25, 2005.

[15] Human Rights Watch interview with H.E., campaign worker, Ghazni city, August 26, 2005.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with M.J., Ghazni candidate, Ghazni city, August 26, 2005.

[17] Human Rights Watch interviews with three Parwan candidates, Charakar, Parwan Province, August 23, 2005.

[18] Human Rights Watch interviews with two Baghlan candidates, Kabul, August 27, 2005.

[19] Human Rights Watch interviews with three election campaigners in Mazar-e Sharif, September 10, 2005.

[20] Human Rights Watch interviewed several candidates, local journalists, human rights rights workers, and election campaigners in Mazar-e Sharif on September 9 and 10, 2005.

[21] Human Rights Watch interviews with residents of three villages in Samangan province, Samangan, September 10, 2005; Human Rights Watch interview with local journalists and human rights workers, Mazar-e Sharif, September 9 and 10, 2005.

[22] Human Rights Watch, Paying for the Taliban's Crimes: Abuses Against Ethnic Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 14, no. 2(c), n. 13, March 2002, available at

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with local journalists and human rights workers, Mazar-e Sharif, September 9 and 10, 2005.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with J.P., local journalist working in Faryab province, September 9, 2005.

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with H.L., woman candidate from Herat, August 29, 2005.

[26] Human Rights Watch interview with Q.H., Kapisa candidate, Kabul, August 26, 2005.

[27] Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Ghazni candidate, Kabul, August 22, 2005.

[28] Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Ghazni candidate, Kabul, August 22, 2005.

[29] Human Rights Watch interview with T.M., Takhar candidate, Taloqan, August 30, 2005.

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with A.B.B., Sar-e Pul candidate, Kabul, August 26, 2005.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Ghazni candidate, Kabul, August 22, 2005.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with I.S., Takhar candidate, Taloqan, August 30, 2005.

[33] Human Rights Watch interview with M.K.A., woman candidate from Paktika, Kabul, August 27, 2005.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Ghazni candidate, Kabul, August 22, 2005.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with N.G., Baghlan candidate, Kabul, August 27, 2005.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with H.R., local journalist, Mazar-e Sharif, September 9, 2005.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with A.M.N., Takhar candidate, Taloqan, August 31, 2005.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with A.B.B., Sar-e Pul candidate, Kabul, August 26, 2005.

[39] See Human Rights Watch, “Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity,” A Human Rights Watch report, July 2005, available at, pp. 112-116.

[40] See “Blood-Stained Hands,” pp. 119-121.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with Samangan voters, Samangan province, September 10, 2005.

[42] Human rights Watch interview with Mazar-e Sharif candidate, September 10, 2005.

[43] The number of initial nominations was slightly higher. At the close of the nomination period for the 2005 Wolesi Jirga and provincial council elections, 2,838 candidates had been nominated for the 239 available Wolesi Jirga seats, 342 of whom were women. 3,198 individuals had nominated themselves for the 420 provincial council seats, of whom 286 were women.  There were an additional 67 candidates for the ten seats reserved for the nomadic Kuchis. 

[44] JEMB press release, “JEMB certifies final list of candidates,” July 12, 2005.

[45] Human Rights Watch phone interview with a woman NGO worker focusing on elections, Kabul, August 10, 2005.  She additionally noted that, “Many of the NGOs and civic education has focused on the Wolesi Jirga.”

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with an independent Takhar provincial council candidate, Kabul, August 2, 2005.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with Z.A., woman provincial council candidate in a northeastern province, August 30, 2005.

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with A.G., woman Wolesi Jirga candidate in a northern province, August 30, 2005.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with A.G., woman Wolesi Jirga candidate in a northern province, August 30, 2005.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with J.W., woman Wolesi Jirga candidate in a central province, August 31, 2005.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with T.K., woman provincial council candidate in a northern province, August 30, 2005.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Z.A., woman provincial council candidate in a northern province, August 30, 2005.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Z.A., woman provincial council candidate in a northern province, August 30, 2005.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with J.W., woman Wolesi Jirga candidate in a central province, August 31, 2005.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with international election observer in a rural area of northern Afghanistan, September 1, 2005.

[56] Electoral Law of Afghanistan, art. 21(4): “If a candidate is not able to take, or abandons, his or her seat during the term of the Wolesi Jirga, the vacant seat shall belong to the next most voted candidate from the same gender.”

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>August 2005