In Afghanistan: Donkeys Deliver The Votes

NPR photographer David Gilkey, with words by Claire O'Neil, produces another compelling photo gallery from Afghanistan — this one telling the story of how donkeys are critical to Thursday's presidential election:

  • The second democratic presidential election in Afghanistan will take place Thursday. An election official chases a runaway donkey carrying cardboard polling booths, which will be delivered to remote areas of Afghanistan for voting.
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    The second democratic presidential election in Afghanistan will take place Thursday. An election official chases a runaway donkey carrying cardboard polling booths, which will be delivered to remote areas of Afghanistan for voting.
  • The challenge is getting to these remote regions, as roads are nearly impassable. Trucks meet up with donkey teams at selected locations along the road. The donkeys then travel to remote villages where the polling places will be set up. A sheep herder tries to protect his flock from huge Russian-made trucks.
    Hide caption
    The challenge is getting to these remote regions, as roads are nearly impassable. Trucks meet up with donkey teams at selected locations along the road. The donkeys then travel to remote villages where the polling places will be set up. A sheep herder tries to protect his flock from huge Russian-made trucks.
  • A truck driver wipes his eyes after driving all night to deliver voting materials in the Yangam district of Badakhshan province. The terrain is so treacherous and roads are so poor that it can take up to 24 hours to travel 30 miles. Yangam has become especially difficult to reach this year after winter floods.
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    A truck driver wipes his eyes after driving all night to deliver voting materials in the Yangam district of Badakhshan province. The terrain is so treacherous and roads are so poor that it can take up to 24 hours to travel 30 miles. Yangam has become especially difficult to reach this year after winter floods.
  • Posters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are taped to the side of the only restaurant in Yangam district. In this Tajik-dominated ethnic region of Afghanistan, politics take center stage as the presidential election draws near.
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    Posters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are taped to the side of the only restaurant in Yangam district. In this Tajik-dominated ethnic region of Afghanistan, politics take center stage as the presidential election draws near.
  • Election officials and local police load a donkey with boxes for ballot collection. On a recent day, four donkeys were loaded with tables, chairs, polling booths, ballots and the collection boxes to make the all-day journey to the village of Quali Kuana in the nearby mountains.
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    Election officials and local police load a donkey with boxes for ballot collection. On a recent day, four donkeys were loaded with tables, chairs, polling booths, ballots and the collection boxes to make the all-day journey to the village of Quali Kuana in the nearby mountains.
  • Delivery donkeys nuzzle before heading out on the trail.
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    Delivery donkeys nuzzle before heading out on the trail.
  • More than 800 donkeys will be used by the United Nations and the election commission to deliver voting materials to remote villages.
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    More than 800 donkeys will be used by the United Nations and the election commission to deliver voting materials to remote villages.
  • Donkeys, their handlers and the Afghan National Police escort a load of voting materials over a handmade bridge en route to the village of Quali Kuana.
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    Donkeys, their handlers and the Afghan National Police escort a load of voting materials over a handmade bridge en route to the village of Quali Kuana.
  • Voters will travel miles, all day in some cases, to exercise the right to vote for the next president.
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    Voters will travel miles, all day in some cases, to exercise the right to vote for the next president.
  • Boys from Quali Kuana helped carry the election materials with their donkeys. They roll up free posters from the U.N. — cartoons showing people how to vote.
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    Boys from Quali Kuana helped carry the election materials with their donkeys. They roll up free posters from the U.N. — cartoons showing people how to vote.
  • Election materials are unloaded at a private home of a local elder in the village of Quali Kuana, where the ballots will be guarded by the Afghan National Police. Security accompanies all of the voting materials no matter how remote the village. The ballots will be escorted back to Kabul via donkey and truck.
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    Election materials are unloaded at a private home of a local elder in the village of Quali Kuana, where the ballots will be guarded by the Afghan National Police. Security accompanies all of the voting materials no matter how remote the village. The ballots will be escorted back to Kabul via donkey and truck.
  • A boy and his donkey carry unused ballots across a stream while on their way to the village of Quali Kuana in the Yangam district.
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    A boy and his donkey carry unused ballots across a stream while on their way to the village of Quali Kuana in the Yangam district.

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More of David's work is on The Picture Show blog.

Update at 3:45 p.m. ET. Here's another photo, this one from Morning Edition producer Jim Wildman, of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry during his recent visit to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-I-Sharif. While there, the ambassador was serenaded by a boys' choir and given a gift — plastic flowers:

A children's choir serenades Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on his arrival in Mazar-I-Sharif. After pres

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