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Female political junkies find voice online

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Kandahar, Afghanistan — Nazia Jaan has many hurdles to jump before she can achieve her dream of becoming president of Afghanistan. The first one involves convincing her father that she should be allowed to participate in politics -- period.

"All in all, my family does not have a good memory from politics," she said, explaining that her father was inexplicably jailed during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and her uncle assassinated.

"I respect their feelings," she said, adding, "I won't hurt them."

So, instead of attempting to run in the election in August, Ms. Jaan is settling for simply casting her vote, the prospect of which has the 21-year-old law student ecstatic. Not that she's willing to talk much about it. "Families hate it when their children, especially girls, talk on the phone, certainly about politics," she said in an e-mail, explaining why she feels she can write, but not speak, about her political passion.

At school in Kabul, where she is studying civil rights, she feels she must also stay silent.

"At the university, there are groups of different races, ethnicities, political groups - and I would hate to get into trouble by showing public support to a certain politician or group," she said.

Online though, it's a different story. Ms. Jaan said she and her fellow female political junkies feel free to express their opinions on Internet campaign sites, where they engage in fervent debates about who the next president should be, and why.

For Ms. Jaan, the choice is obvious. She's planning to vote for Ali Ahmad Jalali, a well-known Afghan-American who is scheduled to return to the country from Washington next week.

Ms. Jaan met Mr. Jalali in 2003, when he had a brief stint in Kabul serving as interior minister with the interim government.

"I saw a hope in his eyes," Ms. Jaan explained, adding that she's long been studying his policy positions and doing her part to increase his popularity with other young people. "All I can do for now is to hope for a better future. ... We the voters will be responsible."

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