The iconic photos of voters holding up their ink-stained fingers have become a symbol for many Middle Eastern countries in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
For the Taliban in the western Herat province, that symbol was not appreciated.
The BBC reported last week that Taliban members “seized” elderly men after they voted in the run-off election and cut off their fingers. Sadly, their sacrifice seems to be for naught, as this election has been heavily disputed, not unlike other elections in Afghanistan. According to the BBC article, the Taliban denied their involvement in the attack, but two of the suspected Taliban perpetrators were killed by Afghan security forces, and another is in custody.
Although they denied involvement, the Taliban threatened to disrupt the election. In a statement, the Taliban warned Afghans to “remain far away from the polling stations… lest you should be hurt or killed.” Fox News reported that “a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks” reportedly “killed 47 people, including 20 civilians and an election commission worker.”
Back in 2009, the Taliban also disrupted the election, as reported at the Independent. The article revealed that “[s]poradic attacks against candidates, election officials and polling stations failed to disrupt the process entirely but security fears contributed to a low voter turnout, especially in Taliban strongholds in the south and east.”
The article continued,
“The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001, have strengthened their insurgency, with 2009 the deadliest year of the eight-year war.”
Fast forward to today, Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah “announced a boycott of the electoral process, accusing his opponent and President Hamid Karzai of engineering huge fraud in the runoff vote on Saturday.”
Although the The United Nations “…called on him to reengage with the election,” Abdullah has doubled down, releasing (disputed) audio during a news broadcast purported to be evidence of “intercepted phone call recordings” featuring Independent Election Commission (IEC) Secretariat head Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, directing officials to “stuff ballot boxes using code words,” as reported at Reuters.
A statement from the White House said in part, “…while the future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans, the United States will support the Afghan people as they continue the hard work of building a democracy.”