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‘Tired of war’ Peace convoy arrives in Kabul after 37-day march

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By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: Dozens of peace marchers have arrived in Kabul on Monday after trekking across several provinces, including Taliban controlled areas, calling for an end to the 17-years war that taking high toll on civilians.

The exhausted Helmand Peace Convoy reached capital, after walking 700-kilometre (430-mile) over nearly 37 days, during holy month of Ramadan with sole message that Afghan masses are ‘tired of war’.

The protest march began with a group of nine men and picked up supporters during the long journey as now they are 100 peace marchers including, teachers, students, war victims, even a man with wheelchair. By passing each provinces, and areas under Taliban control, the marchers chanting “We Want Peace! Stop Fighting.”

The peace marchers were highly welcomed and their walk for peace widely appreciated in different provinces, where they were traveling. In Ghazni, Hazara ethnic tribes, including boys and girls welcomed Helmand peace marchers with singing songs and flowers in their foot.

Spokesman of Helmand Peace March, Bismillah Watandost, said march for peace started on May 13 from Lashkargah, the capital city of Helmand, and after passing different cities and provinces reached Kabul on Monday.

In an interview with Afghanistan Times, he said marchers walked all days of Ramadan, spending Eid days with people in Maidan Wardak province.  The peace marchers never slowdown their steps toward peace and did not return to their homes to celebrate Eid days.

“We started with nine people, by passing six provinces the number grown to 100,” he said, adding “everyone who joined us left family behind in a situation needed them during Ramadan and Eid days, but these people sacrificed their joys for peace.”

Our march was for peace in all over the country, he said, demanding ceasefire to be applied nationwide.  “Afghan government, and Taliban group should have agree on accessible address to meet aimed at kicking of negotiations.” He welcomed short-term ceasefire, but emphasized for long-term truce between government and Taliban group.

Since we are here will do best to meet Kabul residents to gain more support to the peace march, he said. “Our next step is to establish sit-in tent as a protest in the city, demanding for an end to the long years of war.”

We were welcomed widely after arriving in new areas–whether it was Afghan security forces, Taliban members, or civilians, because our demand is peace for all, the peace convoy spokesman said.

He said people tired of war, and solution is to set together to find ways out of ongoing war that kill Afghans no matter whether its Afghan security forces, Taliban or civilians.

“From Helmand till Kabul, we also marched through Taliban controlled areas, where we had meetings with Taliban members to encourage them for peace—and Taliban demand was also peace,” he added.

To support the peace march, people in 21 provinces establish sit-in tents with consideration that peace march is for all Afghans. The Helmand marchers were walking 25 to 30km each day under sunlight, he noted.

“After arriving, we were meeting local people in every city and village in order to motivate them to speed up efforts and raise voice for peace,” he added.

It was not an easy journey, almost everyone’s feet received injuries several times, but cured back, he said, adding, but such pain and pressure has never forced them to give up.

The first thing people were doing after our arrival to city and village was to put medicine to our feet, he said. “Within two days, we would get relief from pain.”

“They marchers were receiving treatment for low blood pressure, because of low consumption of water and food. It was Ramadan and they were not allowed to eat or drink for 16 out of the 24 hours.”

Blistered and hungry protestor, Zahir Ahmad Zindani from Kandahar said “I joined this convoy from Kandahar and today arrived in Kabul.”

Zindani, who was blinded after a roadside blast several years ago–also lost his sister on the way to Herat province, said “all Afghans tired of war like me and want peace.”

“I have a very bad memory from ongoing war, me with my sister were on the way from Kandahar to Herat to visit our uncle, while our bus hit with a roadside mine, losing my eyes and sister.”

His sister burnt badly in the incident, and taken her to Karachi of Pakistan for treatment, but she succumbed to her injury on the way.

“With blind eye, living is very difficult and my heart is full of sorrow, but the ongoing conflict in my homeland hurt me more and more, he said, adding despite being a blind he joined peace convoy.

Throughout his journey, one of his friends Enamullhaq Ketab helped him from Kandahar to Kabul. “We are up for peace, and the Afghan masses have to support this convoy.”

He called on Taliban group to renounce violence by joining the Afghan-owned and Afghan-lead peace and reconciliation process.

Touching upon ceasefire during Eid days implemented by both sides, he said it was a joyful Eid than ever in the past two decades. “We hope this ceasefire prolonged and lead to a durable peace.

However, the Taliban group already declared off the ceasefire and already resumed fighting Afghan security forces.