"The people out there are scared as hell of the Taliban," a U.S. Army officer who recently returned from Afghanistan told the Daily Beast. And given the 39 suicide bombings, countless threats of death and mutilation and the murder of an Afghan provincial council candidate just before the elections, they have legitimate reason to be terrified.
However, the imminent danger from the Taliban did not stop the people of Afghanistan from heading to polling stations on Saturday to elect President Hamid Karzai's successor. It's the country's third presidential election since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and its first time transferring power from one elected leader to another.
"I am here to vote today. It's a day to decide about the future of Afghanistan and I would like to ask all women to break their silence and take one step towards progress. If they don't want to do it for themselves they should do it for future generations," a female voter told Afghan news agency the Khaama Press.
"If you want to see this country or any other country even being able to deal with the challenges and develop, it cannot happen without the role of half the population," Abdullah Abdullah, one of the election's front-runners, told Britain's Independent newspaper.
"Of course the massive turnout of women voters is a big slap to all those who want to block us to contribute. Feeling proud to be a woman," said activist Samira Huria, who had returned to Afghanistan to take part in the poll.
Here are nine inspiring photographs of women across Afghanistan at polling stations, participating in the elections:
1. Women line up to enter a polling station in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
2. An Afghan woman leaves a polling station after casting her ballot in Kabul.
3. A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Kabul.
4. An Afghan woman shows her inked finger after voting in Jalalabad.
5. An Afghan woman searches voters before they enter a polling station to cast their ballots in Kabul.
6. An Afghan election worker, second from the left, explains the election process to voters at a polling station in Kabul.
7. An elderly Afghan woman shows another woman her inked finger after casting her ballot.
8. A young Afghan woman shows her inked finger after casting her vote at a polling station in Herat, Afghanistan.