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Afghan women make political gain

At least 64 women will be part of next month's national assembly, which will shape the country's constitution.

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They slipped the letter under Nafesa Baha's door one night. It read: "Warning. If you continue in this process of trying to elect women to the loya jirga, you will be targeted."

But Mrs. Baha decided the show must go on and got herself a gun. In the face of such threats, she oversaw a new kind of election this week: one for women only. Here in Logar, two women were chosen to represent this deeply conservative province in a nationwide assembly, or loya jirga, which will shape Afghanistan's constitution - and its very future - when it meets in Kabul next month.

Thursday marked two years since the fall of the Taliban, who used an extreme interpretation of Islam to force women and girls to stay home and wear the all-encompassing burqa. Two years on, such limitations have been loosened, but have hardly fallen away. In this province, an hour and a half south of the capital, every woman who arrived for the election at this heavily guarded and gated compound wore a burqa - though the polyester blue shrouds disappeared once inside. Some said they had to lie to their families in order to attend.

Baha, who heads the women's division of the constitutional loya jirga committee for the province of Logar, says that she brought the threatening letter to the local military commander. He issued her a Kalashnikov and sent her on her way.

"I patrol around my house at night, and I keep it with me for security," says Baha, letting loose a toothy grin that stands out against her deep brown skin. "I decided that I'm going to keep doing this no matter what, even if they try to kill me."

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