Peace Activists Begin Their Journey To Taliban-Influenced Areas

Members of People’s Peace Movement on Friday started their journey from Lashkargah city to Taliban-controlled Musa Qala district in southern Helmand province to pass on the message of peace to the group – who refused to agree on a ceasefire during three days of the upcoming Eid al-Fitr. 

The 50-member peace movement will reach the center of the volatile Musa Qala district after six days of walking at the end of the week. Musa Qala district is under Taliban influence for the past four years.

“It will take six days to reach Musa Qala district and there we will meet with the residents and will listen to them and pass on their message to the world,” said Iqbal Khyber, head of the movement.

“So far, peace message was not delivered to areas under Taliban influence but now we want to do this,” said Ghulam Sarwar Ghafari, a member of the movement.

Other members of the group said they will call on the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire in order to advance the peace process.

“Those who are living in volatile areas, their children are deprived of education and they are in a tough situation. We hope that they (Taliban) will choose a peaceful way through an agreement,” said Hamid Khanjari, a member of the movement.

“Peace is our big hope. We hope that the Taliban will announce a ceasefire during the Eid days,” said Zmarai Zaland, member of the peace movement.

The Helmand Peace Convoy 

The People’s Peace Movement, also called the Helmand Peace Convoy, initially started their activities when a group of at least a dozen activists staged a protest in Lashkargah City last year in March 2018 against an attack that killed around 16 people that month. About a month later, the activists left Helmand on foot for Kabul.

The activists walked through towns and villages, crossed provinces and met with local residents along the way. For 38 days, they walked and as they progressed, so their numbers grew.

About 700kms later, the group of eight had grown to an estimated 100. They arrived in Kabul on June 18 and handed over demands for a ceasefire and peace to both the Afghan government and the Taliban.

During their stay in Kabul, they held sit-in protests outside diplomatic offices in Kabul. They also met with President Ghani on a Kabul street where they asked him to accelerate the peace efforts.

The activists, whose ages ranged from 17 to 65, came from all walks of life and include students, athletes and farmers among others. It was these and other activists that then extended their walk from Kabul to Balkh.

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