Young people in Afghanistan are up to something remarkable. In the Taliban stronghold of southern Afghanistan, the people of Helmand province are protesting against the war. Their demand: the government and Taliban should stop killing civilians.
According to a report published by The Diplomat, this is not just any generic call to peace. Instead, the men and women of Helmand are planning to take the call to the Taliban. They announced that they would march to Taliban-held territory to press for their demands for a ceasefire and civilian protection. The announcement comes from an area where people struggle between the government and the Taliban just for survival.
The protest started spontaneously after an explosion at a sports event. It comes amid efforts by the Afghan government to kick-start long-stalled peace talks. This is also that time of the year when the Taliban typically announce their spring offensive, their yearly battle campaign that sets out the group’s targets and tactics.
What’s the response?
So far, the Taliban have dismissed the protesters’ demands, forcing them to go on hunger strike. But this dismissal might have to end soon.
The Taliban have always claimed that they support peace and want to minimise the suffering of Afghans. This is their chance to show their seriousness. By accepting the call to a ceasefire from a grassroots movement in their own stronghold, they can communicate this through action instead of their usual self-righteous rhetoric.
In the past, the Taliban have targeted and killed civilians indiscriminately. They have also threatened and attacked Afghans associated with the international presence in Afghanistan. In a country where the Taliban have been unable to kill their way to political legitimacy, they now have a chance to enter potential talks from a stronger moral position by taking practical steps to protect lives.
This article was originally published here
Story first published: 15th May 2018