KABUL: An Afghan man who had a finger cut off by the Taliban for voting in his country’s elections five years ago says he now feared for his life after defiantly taking part in the latest presidential polls. Safiullah Safi claimed he had received death threats from the Taliban after casting his vote in Afghanistan’s elections on Saturday and then speaking to media about his ordeal.
The 38-year-old’s brave decision to return to the ballot box after his previous run-in with the Taliban had drawn huge support on social media and from other voters.
However, since receiving “life-threatening phone calls and messages from the Taliban,” Safi told Arab News he now regretted his move.
“My entire body shivers now when anyone calls me. I should not have voted or spoken to the media afterwards. They (the Taliban) told me that by voting and appearing on social media and on film, I had encouraged other people to also vote.”
Bearded Safi’s image appeared on Facebook and Twitter showing his missing right forefinger and the left one stained with indelible ink, indicating he had voted again.
Recalling the incident, Safi said that he was traveling in a car after casting his vote in 2014 when the Taliban stopped the vehicle and began checking the passengers’ forefingers.
“They released all the others, except me, blindfolded me and then I felt an unbearable pain before fainting. I regained consciousness in hospital. Despite the pain and loss of a finger, I decided to vote again, but now I have reached the conclusion that I should not have voted.”
Safi said he would have to limit his movements and possibly change his looks as he no longer felt safe. “The Taliban will do what they say.”
Branding the elections a sham and “a Western tool for subduing nations,” the Taliban have sabotaged all polls held since their ouster in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The group had repeatedly threatened to attack this year’s ballot too, but the level of violence by the insurgents has not been as high as in previous elections.
Defying the Taliban threats, and delays at polling booths, Afghans on Saturday cast their votes in a major test of the Western-backed government’s ability to protect democracy.
But compared to previous polls, the turnout was low because of Taliban threats and also frustrations among voters over broken promises by political leaders.