The Taliban launched a series of attacks, focused mainly on the capital Kabul, just a few days ahead of Afghanistan’s landmark April 5 presidential poll. The militant group had threatened to attack polling stations during the vote and warned people against casting their ballots. But activists and ordinary Afghans reacted by taking to the Internet and launching a massive social media campaign where they expressed their determination to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has been ever since the fall of the Taliban 13 years ago. Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Pictures and slogans saying “Yes, I will Vote!” (main picture) circulated among thousands of Afghan social media users. The campaign paid off on April 5 when millions of Afghans took to polling stations to cast their votes despite the terror threats. The turnout was so high that many polling stations across the country ran out of ballot papers and Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) had to extend voting by an hour. The electoral body estimates that approximately 58 percent – seven out of 12 million eligible voters cast their ballots on Election Day.
Kabul-based activist and former head of the “International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences in Afghanistan” (AIESEC) Ramin Rastin, who as many other Afghans shared such pictures on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, told DW the campaign represented a further step towards democracy in the conflict-ridden country. Speaking about the motives behind his participation in the campaign, the 29-year-old said, “It was the first ever democratic transition of power in my country […] and I believe the only way towards a better future in Afghanistan was to go the ballot box.” There were similar campaigns on all media platforms urging people to vote.
Afghan media has had a rapid growth in the post-Taliban era. There are some 65 television channels, 174 radio stations and hundreds of print publications. About 8 percent of the population has access to the Internet, around 70 percent of which use social media, according to estimates.
A large number of Afghanistan’s social media users are young and male, as the country remains conservative and women’s access to the Internet is limited. Big cities such as Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif are believed to have the highest number of active Twitter and Facebook users.