Afghan writer defiantly votes despite previous Taliban punishment


Despite having two fingers severed by the Taliban in 2014 as a punishment for voting in Afghanistan's elections, the writer Reza Khorami voted again last weekend to show that he has not surrendered to the militants. [JUSTINE GERARDY, NAJIBA NOORI / AFPTV / AFP]

KABUL -- With two fingers missing from his right hand, Afghan writer Reza Khorami struggles to tap out stories on his keyboard.

The Taliban lopped off his forefinger in 2014 because it was covered in indelible ink showing Khorami had voted. The tip of the middle finger was also splashed with the purple dye, so it was also amputated.

The brutal punishment, part of the Taliban's war on Afghan democracy, did not deter a defiant Khorami from voting in Saturday (September 28)'s presidential election.

"I voted again in 2019 just to show that I have not surrendered to terrorism," Khorami told AFP this week in Kabul, where he writes fiction.


In this photograph taken on September 30, Afghan writer Reza Khorami shows his hand where two fingers were amputated in 2014 by the Taliban after he voted. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]


In this photograph taken September 30, Afghan writer Reza Khorami struggles to tap out stories on his keyboard in Kabul. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

"They can cut our fingers, but they cannot kill our morale."

Khorami said he wanted the world to know what the radical Islamists did to him and possibly thousands of others like him.

Since Saturday's vote, several images have circulated online of voters proudly holding up a purple-stained finger on one hand alongside a scarred digit on the other, showing they braved the polls despite previous Taliban punishment.

Afghan voters must dip a finger in ink -- which can take a week to wash off -- as a measure to prevent them from voting more than once.

But the obvious mark makes Afghans vulnerable to reprisals from the Taliban, who repeatedly warned voters to stay away from the polls.

'Fighting for freedom'

Khorami, 25, said he had voted for Ghani in 2014 in Ghazni Province and was headed to take a university exam in Kabul when the Taliban stopped him.

"They took me to an undisclosed location, I spent the night there with two other people I did not know," he recalled.

"The next day, they took us to a mosque. An old man was sitting there, and he had a knife and some basic medications. They said: 'We won't kill you, but we will cut off your finger as a lesson for others who participated in the election."'

An emotional Khorami, recounting the horrors of what came next, said his fingers were then amputated without any anaesthesia.

"I fainted. When I woke up, I found myself in a desert," he said, describing how the trauma of the assault still haunts him daily.

Five years on, Taliban operatives called Khorami ahead of the polls, threatening to kill him if he voted again.

"I shared this issue with the media so the world could understand our challenges and know how people are fighting for freedom and becoming victims in such a difficult situation," he said.

While Saturday's election was marred by hundreds of small-scale Taliban attacks at polling stations, the insurgents were unable to steal the headlines with any significant bloody assault.

Preliminary results of the election are due October 19. If no candidate wins a majority, voting will go to a second round.

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Voting has taken place safely in Haska Mena, Nangarhar.