Afghan Youth Debates: Herat Officials Pledge Security

Security forces in the Herat province of western Afghanistan have told voters they are "95 per cent" certain that the April 5 elections will be both safe and transparent.

Abdul Hamid Hamidi, a spokesman for Herat's police chief, said officials were doing everything possible to ensure that violence and corruption did not disrupt the vote.

“Security is much less of a concern in Herat province [than elsewhere]," he told students on January 9. "We are 95 per cent certain that security will be good on polling day and that the vote will be transparent."

Hamidi made his remarks at an IWPR-backed debate held at Herat University and attended by some 100 guests. Panellists included Khalil Parsa, a civil society activist, Wali Mohammad Hadid, a journalist and political analyst, and Zia Ahmad Zia, formerly regional director of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Hamidi told the debate that a total of 467 polling sites had been organised for Herat province. While he admitted that some security concerns remained in districts bordering on Turkmenistan, including Gulran, Koshk-e Kohna and Rabat-e Sangi, he insisted this would not affect the electoral process.

“Although anti-government insurgents may try to disrupt the poll, their efforts will not succeed,” he said. “Our security forces are ready to respond.”

Panellists were asked by one student what criteria IEC staff were required to meet in order to be hired.

Zia, who resigned from the IEC two months ago, said: “The employment process for hiring polling staff is very competitive. Staff are hired based on IEC law, and priority goes to local people in each area to keep costs down." 

Uzra Azizi is a student at Herat University and an IWPR trainee.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.