Afghan Youth Debates: Young People the "Backbone of Society"

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Students in Ghazni province have a decisive role to play in Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections, an IWPR debate has heard.

Abdul Ahad Marjankhil, the head of a local youth group, said the participation of young people in the April 5 ballot was key to a successful outcome.

“We all know that young people form the backbone of our society," he told more than 90 undergraduates attending the IWPR debate at Ghazni University on December 29. "In the past 12 years, our young people have benefitted from an improved education, and they will play a significant role in the coming elections."

The panellists at the event included Nurullah Hamidi, a civil activist, Abdul Hussain Rahimi, a representative of media networks in the province, and Shafiqullah Shafiq, a lecturer at Ghazni University.

Jamal, a student at the university, asked the audience about the role of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). In response, Marjankhil said that one of the organisation's key responsibilities was to help raise public awareness of the vote.

"First of all, people need to know why they ought to go and vote," Marjankhil said. “Second, they need to understand how to lodge any complaints they may have with the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission. I believe these two points are very important."

Mir Afghan, a participant in the debate, asked the panel what the criteria were for becoming an IEC staff member. Rahimi said the law required employees to be Afghan citizens above the age of 30, hold a university degree, and have a minimum of three years' work experience.

Hamidi also raised the issue of press bias. He urged media outlets covering the election to abide by IEC regulations and ensure that their reports remained impartial.

He warned that some of the presidential candidates held significant influence over Afghan radio and television networks and might seek to control their output. “It is the responsibility of IEC to prevent this kind of bias,” he said.

Ibadullah Omar is a student at Ghazni 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.