Conflict Zones

Afghanistan's Election Season Through The Photographer's Lens

  • Security forces stand on a roof overlooking a rally for presidential candidate Zalmay Rassoul in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Elections are taking place Saturday to determine Afghanistan's next president.
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    Security forces stand on a roof overlooking a rally for presidential candidate Zalmay Rassoul in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Elections are taking place Saturday to determine Afghanistan's next president.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Afghan police try to control the street outside of the compound in Kabul used by the U.S.-based aid group Roots of Peace, which was rocked by gunfire and explosions on March 28.
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    Afghan police try to control the street outside of the compound in Kabul used by the U.S.-based aid group Roots of Peace, which was rocked by gunfire and explosions on March 28.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Afghan police speed away carrying foreigners from Roots of Peace. The Taliban claimed they attacked the guesthouse used by foreigners.
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    Afghan police speed away carrying foreigners from Roots of Peace. The Taliban claimed they attacked the guesthouse used by foreigners.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is greeted by well-wishers and local officials at Kandahar International Airport. He held a rally in the southern city in an effort to improve his standing among Pashtuns, who dominate the region.
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    Presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is greeted by well-wishers and local officials at Kandahar International Airport. He held a rally in the southern city in an effort to improve his standing among Pashtuns, who dominate the region.

    David Gilkey/NPR
  • The shoes of guests visiting Abdullah at a private reception. He is an ophthalmologist who served as foreign minister in President Hamid Karzai's government from 2001-2005, and was Karzai's main challenger in the 2009 election.
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    The shoes of guests visiting Abdullah at a private reception. He is an ophthalmologist who served as foreign minister in President Hamid Karzai's government from 2001-2005, and was Karzai's main challenger in the 2009 election.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Crowds surge toward the stage during a speech by Abdullah at a stadium in Kandahar as part of a campaign stop.
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    Crowds surge toward the stage during a speech by Abdullah at a stadium in Kandahar as part of a campaign stop.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A boy walks across the street, with a U.S. Stryker behind, in the main bazaar of the Panjwai District Center. Some 90 NATO troops have been killed and more than 800 wounded in Panjwai, but today the district is considered safe. Afghan forces are now in charge of security, and they say the Taliban won't be returning to the district.
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    A boy walks across the street, with a U.S. Stryker behind, in the main bazaar of the Panjwai District Center. Some 90 NATO troops have been killed and more than 800 wounded in Panjwai, but today the district is considered safe. Afghan forces are now in charge of security, and they say the Taliban won't be returning to the district.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Presidential candidate Zalmay Rassoul shakes hands and greats well-wishers at the Bamiyan airport before a campaign rally. He has served in several top posts, including foreign minister, national security adviser and minister of civil aviation.
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    Presidential candidate Zalmay Rassoul shakes hands and greats well-wishers at the Bamiyan airport before a campaign rally. He has served in several top posts, including foreign minister, national security adviser and minister of civil aviation.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Security forces stand guard at a rally for Rassoul in Bamiyan. The soft-spoken politician is widely viewed as Karzai's choice as a successor, though Karzai has not endorsed any candidate.
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    Security forces stand guard at a rally for Rassoul in Bamiyan. The soft-spoken politician is widely viewed as Karzai's choice as a successor, though Karzai has not endorsed any candidate.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A man walks out of the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul after an election meeting with Rassoul. Local officials and tribal leaders attended the function to support his campaign.
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    A man walks out of the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul after an election meeting with Rassoul. Local officials and tribal leaders attended the function to support his campaign.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Afghan National Security Forces stand guard outside of the hotel in Kabul during the campaign event for Rassoul.
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    Afghan National Security Forces stand guard outside of the hotel in Kabul during the campaign event for Rassoul.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani holds a red rose as his wife, Rula, sits next to him during a campaign rally in Kabul on Women's Day. He is relatively well-known and popular in the West, but in the 2009 election he managed only 3 percent of the vote and finished fourth.
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    Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani holds a red rose as his wife, Rula, sits next to him during a campaign rally in Kabul on Women's Day. He is relatively well-known and popular in the West, but in the 2009 election he managed only 3 percent of the vote and finished fourth.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A woman stands on a stairway to get a better view of Ghani during the rally.
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    A woman stands on a stairway to get a better view of Ghani during the rally.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A man walks past a billboard for Ghani's campaign in Kabul.
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    A man walks past a billboard for Ghani's campaign in Kabul.
    David Gilkey/NPR

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NPR staff photographer David Gilkey has spent the past few weeks documenting the presidential election campaign in Afghanistan, something that's still relatively new for the country.

President Hamid Karzai, who is barred from running for another term, won the polls in 2004 and 2009. This time around, three candidates appear to be the front-runners in what has been a lively, and occasionally violent, campaign.

Candidates have crisscrossed the ethnically divided country in an attempt to broaden their base. Many rallies have attracted large crowds, and candidates have increasingly made appeals to female voters.

The Taliban have staged periodic attacks during the campaign, but Afghans appeared ready to turn out in large numbers on Saturday.

For more details, we have this primer on the election.

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